June 13, 2013

Massachusetts Supreme Court reverses smoker's $81M punitive damages award

The Boston Herald reports that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has reversed an $81 million punitive damages award given to the family of a smoker in a lawsuit against Lorillard Tobacco Co. 

In a unanimous opinion, the court ruled that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the issues of negligent design and marketing, and that those erroneous instructions may have tainted the punitive damages award.  The court ordered a new trial on punitive damages, but affirmed the jury's $35 million compensatory damages award, which was supported by alternate theories of liability not impacted by the erroneous instructions.