Lawyer: Big Tobacco Hasn't Changed
MIAMI (AP) - Big Tobacco has not truly changed its ways and should be punished financially for decades of misconduct, an attorney seeking punitive damages for sick smokers told a jury today.
``They're on the same page they always were on,'' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt said in opening statements as jurors begin considering a possible multibillion-dollar verdict. ``These defendants most assuredly have not truly changed.''
The same jury already has ruled against the industry and awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers representing approximately 300,000 to 500,000 sick Florida smokers.
The 1994 lawsuit lists a $100 billion request, but Rosenblatt completed his remarks without suggesting an amount for punitive damages.
Attorneys for five cigarette makers with 99 percent of the U.S. market are to offer their first comment on punitive damages starting later today. The case is the nation's only statewide lawsuit seeking damages for hundreds of thousands of people with smoking-related injuries
Michael Szymanczyk, president and CEO of industry-leading Philip Morris Inc., said in a deposition May 10 that his company could not afford to split a $50 billion award.
Rosenblatt flipped through several current magazines to support his claims that the tobacco industry has not changed its advertising approach to kids.
Slapping himself on the wrist as a sign of what cigarette makers want, Rosenblatt said the defendants would say, ``We've become good boys and girls and we're learned our lesson.'' But the industry has simply adopted ``a new public relations strategy to create the appearance of change rather than the reality or substance of change.''
True change would require an admission of misconduct and an apology, Rosenblatt said.
Punitive damages are intended to punish wrongdoing and to warn and deter others. Rosenblatt noted the industry has yet to pay ''10 cents'' to any smoker in compensatory or punitive damages.
In Washington today, the Supreme Court rejected the industry's attempt to replace the judge presiding over the case.
Cigarette makers had complained that Judge Robert Kaye is an ex-smoker with a heart ailment - and therefore could potentially share in any monetary award. The court tossed out the complaint without comment.
The defendants are: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc., the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute.