Tobacco ready to rest its fight against punitive damages
MIAMI (AP) -- The tobacco industry is ready to rest its fight against punitive damages for sick Florida smokers after a three-week case relying on recent changes in a business blamed for decades of misconduct.
Five tobacco chiefs made rare trial appearances to state their cases against an award for 300,000 to 700,000 smokers. The jury already has ruled twice against the nation's five biggest cigarette makers.
The industry was expected to rest Friday, and smokers planned a brief rebuttal case using part of a videotaped deposition by Dr. David Burns, a public-health expert.
Industry CEOs and employees described youth smoking prevention programs in detail, and Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. announced for the first time that it has changed company policy to say smoking causes disease and is addictive.
Smokers' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt noted the companies' anti-smoking programs cost a fraction of the industry's $6 billion in annual advertising and promotional spending.
The final tobacco witness, Trudy Bourgeois, a Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. divisional vice president, denied the company targeted kids, new smokers or minorities. She expressed hope that the company can develop a safer product.
"I personally am just really sorry that people have suffered," she said. "I wish I could undo it, but I know we're on the right road with Nick's direction," referring to company CEO Nick Brookes.
Smokers are expected to specify a dollar amount in closing arguments set to begin July 10. The lawsuit filed in 1994 before states began suing the industry asked for $200 billion.
The six-member jury hearing the landmark smokers' class-action trial has decided the industry makes a deadly, defective product and awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers with cancer.
The other defendants are: Philip Morris Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Durham, N.C.-based Liggett Group Inc.