Supreme Court Lets $750K Tobacco Verdict Stand
Without comment, the Supreme Court on Friday declined to review a Florida Supreme Court decision that upheld a $750,000 judgment against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., marking the first time the high court upheld a jury verdict in a damage suit brought by a smoker against a cigarette company, the Los Angeles Times reports. Grady Carter, a smoker for 44 years who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1991, filed suit against Brown & Williamson in 1995. His case was the first in which a plaintiff introduced "highly damaging internal industry documents" that had been stolen by a former Brown & Williamson paralegal, the Times reports. A Florida jury ruled for Carter, saying that Brown & Williamson was "negligent" in selling him an "unreasonably dangerous and defective product." An appeals court overturned the verdict, but the state Supreme Court upheld it. Brown & Williamson challenged the state Supreme Court's decision, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that it was "preempted by the" 1969 federal cigarette labeling law. The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case is "quite significant," the Times reports. Martin Feldman, a "leading Wall Street tobacco analyst," said, "Had the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take this case and then decided in favor of the industry, it may have been extremely difficult for individual plaintiffs to continue to bring their claims against the industry -- almost anywhere in the U.S." (Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, 6/30). Grady, the first smoker to collect on a verdict against the tobacco industry, said, "I hope this encourages anyone who has a case to file a lawsuit against a tobacco company" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 6/30).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.