According to an online report, the first of thousands of Florida tobacco lawsuits to be filed against Philip Morris concluded Wednesday with a Fort Lauderdale jury awarding the widow of a smoker $8 million in damages.
It took the six jurors two days to return the favorable verdict to Elaine Hess.
Her husband, Stuart Hess, died in 1997 at the age of 55 of lung cancer after decades as a chain smoker. He was hopelessly addicted and unable to quit. Philip Morris said smoking was not addictive and Hess could have quit.
During the trial, jurors were shown video from the 1994 testimony of the “Seven Dwarfs” – the seven top executives of major tobacco companies who denied that smoking cigarettes was addictive.
This phase of the trial was to establish financial damages. $3 million was awarded in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, sending a message to the Richmond, Virginia-based Philip Morris, a unit of Altria Group. The company announced it plans to appeal.
This case and the thousands of others, many represented by Farah and Farah, were forced to file individual cigarette lawsuits in Florida courts after a record $145 billion award in the Engle class-action was thrown out by the state Supreme Court in 2006.
While the outcome of this trial will not dictate what future individual juries could decide, Philip Morris has to be worried. It is already appealing a $79 million jury award in an Oregon case.
For years Big Tobacco enjoyed favorable rulings but this case at least agreed with the findings of the Engle class-action – that tobacco companies knew they were selling dangerous products and that they deceived the public by hiding those known risks.
Contact our Florida tobacco lawsuit attorneys at Farah and Farah today if you have any questions or feel you may have a potential claim. We’d be happy to talk to you about your case.