February 13, 2009

Jury Rules For Plaintiff in First Phase of Retrial After Reversal of $145 Billion Punitive Damages Award

The Associated Press is reporting that a Florida jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Elaine Hess in the first phase of the first trial in a series of cases brought by 8,000 Florida smokers. The jury ruled that the plaintiff's husband, Stuart Hess, a longtime chain smoker, was addicted to nicotine before he died of lung cancer. The trial will now consider the issues of liability and, if necessary, damages.

As we noted here, these cases are the result of the failed Engle class action, in which Florida smokers collectively obtained an award of $145 billion in punitive damages, the largest civil award in U.S. history. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that award, ruling that the plaintiffs had to prove individually that cigarettes caused their illnesses.

Hat tip: How Appealing

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