Lawyer Demands Big Tobacco Pay Smokers Up to $196 Bln
MIAMI (Reuters) - A lawyer for a half million sick smokers asked jurors on Monday to sting Big Tobacco with the highest punitive damages award in U.S. history, saying global conglomerate Philip Morris and others should pay between $123 billion and $196 bi
Plaintiffs attorney Stanley Rosenblatt in his closing arguments asked for punitive damages against the tobacco companied of up to $196 billion.Plaintiffs lawyer Stanley Rosenblatt presented a range of possible judgements to six Miami jurors and said, ``An appropriate, just number would be $154 billion.''
A judgement in that range, if granted in the Engle case, the first sick-smokers class-action lawsuit to come to trial, would easily outpace the $4.8 billion a California jury last year ordered carmaker General Motors to pay in a case brought by six people burned by an exploding gasoline tank.
The Miami jury might award less, or no punitive damages at all, during deliberations expected to begin this week. In addition, much of the immediate financial threat to tobacco groups, such as RJ Reynolds, eased last spring when Florida's government capped at $100 million the bond the defendants must post while appealing to higher courts.
Defense lawyers have yet to make closing arguments to the jurors, the same six who last year found big cigarette companies made dangerous products, conspired for decades to hide the health risks of smoking, and were liable for the illnesses of as many as 500,000 or more smokers in Florida.
Top tobacco executives testified in the Miami court that their companies were already struggling with $246 billion in payments due state governments under legal settlements reached in the 1990s and might have to liquidate, if faced with a massive punitive damages award in the Florida case.