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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Accepts Philip Morris Punitives Case—Again

Posted Jun 9, 2008 10:17 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a $79.5 million punitive damages award against tobacco giant Philip Morris for the third time.

At issue is whether the Oregon Supreme Court defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling in the case when it upheld the punitive award, Reuters reports.

The U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the award in 2003, but the Oregon Supreme Court on remand said the company’s reprehensible conduct warranted the large verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict a second time last year, saying juries may not impose damages for harm done to those who are not parties in a lawsuit.

In the latest ruling, the Oregon Supreme Court refused Philip Morris’ challenge because of jury instructions it proposed at trial that would have slanted the law too far in its favor, How Appealing reported on the ruling. The award has grown to about $145 million when interest is added.

SCOTUSblog says the case poses a significant constitutional conflict between the Supreme Court’s authority to have its rulings applied, and a state court’s authority to manage its own state procedural rules.

The case is Philip Morris USA v. Williams.

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