Judge Shortens Smokers' Trial
MIAMI (AP) - A judge shortened a presentation by sick Florida smokers seeking punitive damages from the tobacco industry by discarding three planned witnesses Friday.
He told tobacco lawyers to be ready to start their case next week.
Circuit Judge Robert Kaye excluded three witnesses who were to discuss public health and smoking, the conduct of the tobacco industry and class-action lawsuits because he said they would be repetitive.
The plaintiffs, who are seeking a multibillion-dollar damage verdict for 300,000 to 500,000 sick Florida smokers, now have a total of seven witness with two yet to testify.
Smokers' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt objected that witnesses for the nation's five biggest cigarette makers will overlap in their testimony as well. But lead industry attorney Dan Webb said the companies do not plan to call 28 witnesses as originally planned.
``We can read the jury as well as anyone,'' Webb said, referring to the fact that the panel has heard the case for nearly two years. ``We can move this case I think toward a resolution in reasonably short order.''
The six-member jury already has ruled against the industry and awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three people in the first smokers' class-action suit to go to trial nationally.