Tobacco Case Delayed by Judge
MIAMI (AP) - A judge today delayed the punitive damage phase in a landmark smokers' lawsuit against the tobacco industry so he can resolve a 10-inch-high stack of motions.
The jury that found cigarette companies had conspired to sell a dangerous product was expected to begin considering penalties against the industry today.
But the judge, who was on vacation for the past two weeks and hadn't seen the motions, agreed to a one-week delay at the request of industry attorneys.
``I think we'll all be better off if we get it all done,'' Circuit Judge Robert Kaye said before calling in the jury.
He rescheduled the punitive damages phase to begin May 22.
Attorneys representing the 500,000 sick Florida smokers in the class-action lawsuit had wanted to begin immediately. Anti-smoking activists are hoping for an award of tens of billions of dollars to punish the industry.
The jury last month awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers representing the class.
Tobacco company lawyers plan to argue that the industry's $250 billion settlement over 25 years with states and restrictions on youth marketing are proof that no more punishment is needed.