Philip Morris to Face Next California Smoker Lawsuit in May
Los Angeles, March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Philip Morris Cos. will face a Los Angeles jury in May on claims that the tobacco giant contributed to the lung cancer suffered by a longtime smoker.
The jurisdiction has been unfriendly to the company. In June 2001, a Los Angeles jury ordered Philip Morris to pay $3 billion to a lung cancer victim, the fifth-largest award in a U.S. court. That award was cut to $100 million by the judge and now is under appeal.
In the latest lawsuit, 63-year old Betty Bullock claims the company should have to pay for her lung cancer. Her lawyer is Michael Piuze of Los Angeles, who also represented Richard Boeken in the earlier case. Boeken died in January at age 57.
The trial in Bullock's case had been scheduled to begin in state court in February. The case was moved to federal court by Philip Morris, then was sent back to state court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason. She set a trial date for May 29.
Delays created by moving such cases ``eat into the limited life expectancies of Philip Morris's best customers/victims,'' said Piuze. ``It appears Philip Morris wants these people to die before seeing the inside of a courtroom.''
Bullock says she began smoking Marlboro brand cigarettes when she was 17 and later switched to Benson & Hedges. Both are made by Philip Morris.
Representatives from Philip Morris couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
The tobacco industry has lost four consecutive cases on the West Coast, with jury awards ranging from $21.7 million to the $3 billion awarded to Boeken.
Philip Morris also is in a Portland, Oregon, court this week, preparing to present closing arguments to a jury in hopes of ending the losing streak. Relatives of Michelle Schwarz say decades of smoking Philip Morris cigarettes caused the lung cancer that killed her in 1999.
Shares of Philip Morris fell 71 cents to $52.10 in midday trading.