Jurors Vent Outrage at Industry
Tony Vaccaro thought it was time for "the little people" to send a message -- the "average citizens," as he put it, "who usually don't have a voice." The message was this: Tobacco companies have spent decades deceiving the public about the effects of the
But the message wasn't just from Vaccaro, a 28-year-old financial services worker in San Francisco. It was the verdict of a 12-person jury on which he served in February. Its $51 million judgment against Philip Morris -- one of four verdicts against tobacco since last summer -- was part of a populist trend of jurors around the country exacting punishment on disfavored industries.
Tobacco hasn't been the only business newly buffeted by this wave of juror outrage. In February, for the first time, a jury decided to hold gun manufacturers responsible for the criminal use of their products. Again, some jurors said the industry had it coming.
Lawsuits condemning cigarettes and guns are nothing new. Advocacy groups have campaigned for years against the tobacco and firearms industries, using the courts as a weapon. What is new is that juries are listening.