Judge Rules on Tobacco Case Proof
MIAMI (AP) - Cigarette makers cannot tell a jury considering punitive damages for sick Florida smokers that the $250 billion they agreed to pay to states was sufficient punishment, a judge ruled Wednesday.
``You didn't get punished by any other case. You capitulated, and that's another matter,'' Judge Robert Kaye said. ``You were not forced by court action in the law to pay against your will.''
The jury already has ruled the industry conspired to produce a deadly product and awarded $12.7 million in damages to three smokers serving as representatives of an estimated 500,000 smokers covered by the class-action suit.
Now, the jury must decide whether to award punitive damages in order to punish the companies for their conduct.
During this phase, the tobacco industry can tell jurors what they owe under the settlements as a cost of doing business. But Kaye said: ``You cannot argue, `Please don't punish us any more.'''
Kaye also excluded testimony about the industry's charitable contributions, community projects and diversity programs. But he will allow testimony from employees to back up claims by executives that the industry has changed, as the public's attitude toward smoking has changed.
The punitive phase could last up to two months.