Two companies won't pay up for smokers' lawsuit
Two tobacco companies say they won't join three others in setting aside money for a group of sick smokers in Florida who won a lawsuit last year.
Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, attorneys for the smokers, sent letters last week to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. asking them to join a stipulation order.
Under the order, Philip Morris Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Liggett Group Ltd. set aside $710 million for the Miami-Dade Circuit Court to distribute to a group of Florida smokers that has yet to be determined.
The money would be held in escrow as the companies appeal the verdict of last year's trial, which totaled $145 billion in punitive damages.
The attorneys said they might sue Reynolds and B&W if they decline to set aside the funds. They said a Florida law limiting their bond to $100 million is unconstitutional.
"We remain confident in the validity of the Florida bonding statute, which was approved by the legislature at the request of the state attorney general," RJR said in a statement Monday.
Before the bonding statute was passed last year, Florida law required defendants to post a bond that equaled the punitive-damages verdict, which was $36.3 billion in RJR's case.