In the last two months, two separate juries in federal court in Florida have awarded plaintiffs represented by Lieff Cabraser a total of $68 million in compensatory and punitive damages against major tobacco companies. The lawsuits charged that the tobacco companies engaged in a 50-year conspiracy to mislead the public about the hazards of smoking.
Last month, a jury returned a verdict of $41.1 million against defendants Philip Morris USA Inc. and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. Plaintiff Kenneth Kerrivan started smoking cigarettes when he was 14 years old. Mr. Kerrivan now faces terminal chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The jury award included $15.8 million in compensatory damages, $15.7 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris, and $9.6 million against RJ Reynolds.
In September, another jury awarded Judith Berger $27,010,000.14 in a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA Inc. Ms. Berger started smoking when she was 14 years old. Today, Ms. Berger suffers from COPD. The jury verdict included 20,760,000 dollars and 14 cents in punitive damages.
Evidence at the trials showed that 90 percent of daily cigarette smokers start smoking as teenagers, which is why the tobacco industry marketed to teenagers.
The tobacco companies at both trials also sought to place all the blame on the plaintiffs for becoming addicted to nicotine as teenagers in a time when the defendants widely marketed smoking cigarettes, using celebrities, famous athletes, and advertising on television shows popular with children and teenagers.
“Thankfully, the juries rejected this defense and held Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds accountable for their decision to target an entire generation of post-World War II American teenagers with a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” stated Lieff Cabraser attorney Kenneth Byrd.