Two new lawsuits filed in LA against tobacco industry
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Two new lawsuits have been filed against tobacco giant Philip Morris and other defendants just days after a jury ordered the cigarette maker to pay a cancer-stricken Newport Beach woman a record $28 billion in punitive damages.
The lawsuits, filed late Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court and made public Tuesday, also named R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, The Liggett Group and the Council for Tobacco Research as defendants.
The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants "knowingly and willingly" participated in the making of tobacco products they "knew to be dangerous and hazardous."
One lawsuit was filed by Anna Bonner, a Los Angeles woman who said she began smoking at 16. Bonner said she developed lung cancer that spread to her brain after smoking mostly Marlboro cigarettes.
The other lawsuit was filed by Cynthia Green on behalf of her late husband, Mack Green, who she said started smoking as a 9-year-old boy. He preferred Benson & Hedges cigarettes, developed lung cancer and died in May 2000, she said.
"The company takes every case very seriously and we'll defend them very vigorously, but we'll need to take a look at it before we provide any analysis on it," said Michael York, a litigation spokesman for Philip Morris.
Telephone calls to R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and The Liggett Group were not immediately returned.
Last week a Superior Court jury awarded former smoker Betty Bullock, 64, of Newport Beach, $28 billion in punitive damages in her lawsuit against Philip Morris. The same jury the previous month had award Bullock $750,000 in economic damages and $100,000 for pain and suffering.
Bullock started smoking when she was 17 and was diagnosed last year with lung cancer that has since spread to her liver.
Philip Morris has said it will ask a court to set aside or reduce the punitive damages.
Before Friday's record verdict, the largest jury award to an individual against a tobacco company was $3 billion won in June 2001 against Philip Morris by Richard Boeken, a former heroin addict with cancer who died in January 2002. That judgment was later reduced to $100 million and is being appealed.
On Monday Merrill Lynch downgraded its outlook for Philip Morris from "buy" to "neutral" in response to the California jury award and the current trend of litigation against the industry.