Key Case in Tobacco Wars in Fla.
A jury that has already decided that cigarette smoking causes cancer and other diseases must now put a price tag on the pain and suffering of half a million sick Florida smokers.
Opening statements in the damages phase of the landmark trial got under way this morning after hours of closed-door meetings between the attorneys and the trial judge.
An industry attorney and analysts have predicted that a lump-sum verdict could approach $300 billion, which would cripple the embattled industry.
``It's always easy to assume that tobacco is down,'' said Martin Feldman, a tobacco analyst with Salomon Smith Barney in New York. ``Very often it bounces back with either a successful appeal or with a strategy that hadn't been considered previously.''
An estimated 500,000 sick Florida smokers and their relatives won the first phase of the first class-action lawsuit by smokers to reach trial when jurors found that the industry had engaged in ``extreme and outrageous conduct'' regarding its product.