Recently, the conservative Fifth District Court of Appeals based in Orlando, Florida, ruled a $16,000,000 punitive damages award is not excessive against R.J. Reynolds tobacco company. Many of you might say: “wow that is a lot of money.” However, you should know that tobacco company, after lying for 60 years to the American public, only wanted the repayment to the smoker’s children to be the same amount as the reimbursement for the medical bills and funeral costs for the loss of their mother.
The plaintiff’s counsel asked for $10,000,000. The jury disagreed with both lawyers and told R.J. Reynolds to repay the family the 16 million dollars for what it took by lying about the danger of its products. The tobacco company appeal the award to avoid it’s personal responsibility as determined by a jury. Now, before we go on, please keep in mind, the insurance company for R.J. Reynolds had hired lawyers, good lawyer, really, really good and expensive lawyers from the law firms that represent all the big Wall Street Businesses. The creme-de-la creme’. So, the tobacco company was not a helpless defendant in this case. The lawyers for the plaintiff, some friends of mine, fought long and hard. I heard about it as it progressed. It was a full and hard fight, there was no “out of control jury” here. The appellate court stated:
“The evidence at trial demonstrated significant reprehensibility by Reynolds in designing its cigarettes. It used a tobacco curing process designed to make the smoke “smoother” and manipulated the levels of nicotine and other additives to make its product easily inhalable, and thus, addictive. Too, its advertising efforts, particularly those advertisements produced in the early years of [the deceased mother]’s addiction, were intended to entice young people to begin smoking and to suggest, if not convince, consumers that smoking was safe, or reasonably so. But it was well established that the inhalation of cigarette smoke is not safe. [The mother] paid the price for her addiction. The jury determined that Reynolds must also pay its price.”
I say “out of control jury” to point out some words you have heard before. You’ve heard those because there’s American Tort Reform institute, and other front groups that are defined as “an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned.” (https://tinyurl.com/y5jh7ddu) The tobacco industry has a long history of using front groups which often have had hidden links to the tobacco industry. Sometimes they start them, other times their public relation company’s starts them. These “front groups” are also called “astro-turf” group because they imitate ‘grass-roots” groups of citizens who band together to support or oppose something. That’s why these fake groups are often named “Citizens for [fill in blank].” Hilariously, one of the tobacco’s front groups is called “Citizens for Tort Reform” despite having no citizens involved in the running or funding of the group. Other names are equally deceptive and offensive, such as: “”Parents for Priorities” or “The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), formed by Philip Morris in 1993 or the silly “Citizens for Tobacco Rights.”
This is the kind of corporate behavior that we see when corporations are focused only on profit and not public safety. They do not want to be held “personally responsible” for the damage they cause to one person’s life and their family or a whole class of people and their families. This is the kind of “reprehensible” behavior we see by insurance companies and the lawyers who hire them.
To fight this, you need a lawyer who has experience, persistence, tenacity and the will to win.
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