Tobacco Industry Outlines Challenge
MIAMI (AP) - The tobacco industry is asking a federal judge to oversee the case in which thousands of sick Florida smokers won a $145 billion verdict against cigarette makers.
In legal filings Wednesday, the industry asked U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages to take the case, which was tried before a state judge over two years, and also listed reasons why the record-setting jury award should be erased.
The normal appeals route would be a state appeals court and the state Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court could take the case if constitutional issues were at stake. That track would not take the case to a federal judge or the federal appellate system.
The industry based its request for federal jurisdiction on ``patent errors'' and ``federal constitutional aberrations that subsumed the trial.''
The nation's five biggest cigarette makers also attacked class certification allowing 300,000 to 700,000 sick Florida smokers to pursue a single case against the industry.
Attorneys for the smokers can file their response next week, and the judge set a hearing for Nov. 7.
A six-member state jury delivered the punitive damages verdict July 14. The jury had earlier awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three people who represented the class.
The defendants are Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc. and the industry's defunct Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute.