Only $28 Million

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A California judge has ruled that a jury erred when it decided that Philip Morris should pay $28 billion in punitive damages to a former smoker who blamed the tobacco company for her lung cancer. Since the amount was more than all the punitive damage awards in California during the last two decades combined, this was not a tough call. The judge reduced the award to a mere $28 million, or 33 times the compensatory damages. What does it say for our civil justice system that an award can be reduced by a factor of 1,000 and still be absurdly high? In this case, of course, any award at all would have been absurd.

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  1. here’s 2 recent mega verdicts to ponder:

    Romo v. Ford, affirmed by a Cali. appellate court, gave over $260 million to a family driving a 1979 bronco that rolled over while the driver recklessly passed another car illegally. Oh, and they were illegal immigrants, too. What a great country!

    And today KC paper reports a Jackson County, MO jury giving $80 million to a woman who sued GM for when she backed her ’93 Pontiac (I believe) out of her driveway, hitting a tree. She alleged the car malfunctioned. GM alleged she malfunctioned.

    What’s with people driving old sleds around, crashing them and then suing for a defect?

  2. Yes, $28 billion was excessive, but why is “any award at all” absurd? We’re talking about a company that knew its product was dangerous and addictive, and hid that information from consumers. Even if you argue that smoker deserves some of the blame, you can’t absolve Philip Morris completely — the same way that if Ford manufactures a defective and unsafe car, it is responsible for at least partial damages regardless of how reckless the driver might have been.

  3. MO “hid the information” that it’s products were dangerous?

    Yeah it hid it right on the warning label on every pack of cigrattes they sold for the last 20 years or so.

  4. Next Dummocrits will be suing Levis for their inability to pull their heads out of their asses. ( The trick is to avoid that leftist twist )

  5. First, the tobacco companies did not place the warning stickers on the packs willingly; they were forced to by the government (and did so kicking and screaming that the government was wrong). Secondly, they knew about the dangers long before those stickers went on. And lastly, they had research about the extent of those dangers (including the addictiveness of nicotine) that they never disclosed; nor did they ever disclose the fact that they deliberately added nicotine to increase the addictiveness of the cigarettes.

    As I said, the smoker is not blameless. But how can a company that hid research about the dangers of its product, that deliberately took steps to addict people to the product, and that lied — in public and in court — about what it knew about the dangers of its product claim that it should not be held culpable at all? Come on, they’ve got to shoulder at least part of the blame.

  6. The smoker sure isn’t “blameless”. In fact those who CHOSE to smoke incessantly (and it WAS indeed their choice) are ENTIRELY to blame for their own plight.

    Individuals are entirely responsible for their own actions in any and all circumstances.

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