Tort Law

Fla. Jury Awards $8M to Family of Dead Smoker in Philip Morris Case

A Broward County, Fla., jury today awarded $8 million, including $5 million in punitive damages, to the widow and son of a chain smoker who died at age 55.

Philip Morris, which was the defendant cigarette-maker in the case, has vowed to appeal, reports the Miami Herald.

Elaine Hess, 63, was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages for the loss of her husband, Stuart, and pain and suffering, and their son, David, 34, received $1 million. They had sought $131 million, contending that Philip Morris showed reckless disregard for his health in concealing the adverse effects of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes.

The jury found Stuart Hess 58 percent responsible for his own death, and attributed 42 percent of the fault to Philip Morris. But because it also found that the cigarette manufacturer intentionally omitted information that contributed to his death, fault can’t be apportioned, and the company, at this point, must pay full damages, the newspaper explains.

However, this is a likely area for argument in post-trial motions, and if Philip Morris persuades Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld to apportion fault the punitive damage award would be eliminated and compensatory damages would be reduced to about $1.3 million.

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