State Supreme Court Returns Smoker Lawsuit Against Philip Morris to Appeals Court for Review
The state Supreme Court last week returned a lawsuit filed by a former California smoker against Philip Morris to an appeals court for review, Reuters/Los Angeles Times reports (Reuters/Los Angeles Times, 11/1). In the case, Patricia Henley, who smoked Marlboro cigarettes from the early 1960s to 1997, alleged that Philip Morris had concealed evidence about the risk and addictiveness of the company's products. A San Francisco Superior Court jury in March 1999 agreed with Henley and awarded her $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages, an award later reduced to $25 million. The state 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld the decision last November, and Philip Morris appealed the case the state Supreme Court (California Healthline, 11/8/01). The state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in January (Reuters, 10/31). However, the court in August ruled that smokers in the state can file suit against the tobacco industry for fraud and negligence but cannot present most evidence of the industry's conduct between 1988, when the state enacted a law to protect tobacco companies from lawsuits, and 1998, when the state repealed the law. In a 6-1 decision, the court ruled that the law only protects tobacco companies from lawsuits based on the industry's conduct between 1988 and 1998. In a second 5-2 decision, the court ruled that smokers can use evidence from the 10-year immunity period only in cases in which tobacco companies may have used additives to make smoking more addictive (California Healthline, 9/27). In response to the decisions, Philip Morris asked the state Supreme Court to return the Henley case to the appeals court for review based on the new evidence rules that the court established (Reuters, 10/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.