Philip Morris Asks Judge to Throw Out $3 Bln Award
Los Angeles, July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Philip Morris Cos. asked a judge to throw out a jury order to pay more than $3 billion to a Los Angeles man who is dying of lung cancer, saying the risks of smoking have been known for decades and that the company shoul
A four-man, eight-woman Los Angeles Superior Court jury last month awarded $5.54 million in compensatory damages and $3 billion in punitive damages to Richard Boeken. The award is the largest ever for an individual smoker.
In its 45-page filing, the biggest U.S. tobacco company asked Judge Charles McCoy to reduce the damages to no more than $25 million if the case isn't thrown out. The cigarette maker also said the jury's verdict was the product of prejudice, passions or sympathy.
``Plaintiff's counsel engaged in repeated and gross misconduct designed to stir up the passions and prejudice of the jury,'' the company said in the filing.
The jury verdict, the fifth-largest punitive award in U.S. history, confirmed the West Coast as unfriendly territory for tobacco companies. Two prior cases in California and one in Oregon resulted in verdicts between $21.7 million and $81 million, all of which have been appealed.
Boeken's attorney had asked for $12.4 million and $10 billion in compensatory and punitive damages.
In asking the trial judge to throw out the award, Philip Morris said most consumers have known since before 1950 that cigarettes are ``inherently unsafe,'' and that there is no evidence that Boeken would have smoked a safer cigarette.
Started Smoking in 1957
Boeken, who is ill with cancer that spread to his brain, began smoking two packs a day in 1957, when he was 13. The former construction worker and securities salesman was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999 and sued Philip Morris last year, alleging negligence, false representation and conspiracy.
During the trial, which began April 2, nine of 12 jurors had to agree to reach a verdict. Nine jurors voted to assess punitive damages, while 10 jurors agreed on the $3 billion award.
Since the tobacco industry reached a $246 billion settlement with the states in 1998, it has prevailed in most court battles. The industry's biggest court loss was a $145 billion jury award, which will be appealed, on behalf of thousands of Florida smokers last year.
Philip Morris shares rose 36 cents to $45.55 in morning trading.