• 22.12.2012 Berryville Bust Part Of $33M Cigarettes Sting

    A Federal Grand Jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg has indicted dozens of individuals for conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, money laundering and a variety of related charges.The defendants were charged by the grand jury in four separate indictments returned under seal on February 17, 2011, August 3, 2011 and October 6, 2011. Those indictments were unsealed earlier this week following the arrest and initial court appearances by the defendants.The charges are the result of a three-year investigation by the United...

  • 20.11.2012 Covenant Kicks The Habit

    Amy Olson-Yarbrough was tired of being a prisoner to tobacco."I decided I didn't want cigarettes to control my life any more," Olson-Yarbrough said. "When you're a smoker you have to figure out where you're going to be able to smoke cigarettes next, how long until my next cigarette, how am I going to hide it from my kids . . ."So, on Nov. 23, 2010, Olson-Yarbrough - a pack-a-day smoker who had been at it for close to two decades - quit smoking cigarettes.Now, Olson-Yarbrough can't stand anything about it."The smell of buy cigarettes really nauseates me," she said. "I'll never go back to...

  • 18.10.2012 No-smoking Policy For New Hires

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  • 10.09.2012 Court Upholds Big Award In Smoker's Case

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  • 09.09.2012 California Court Approves 16:1 Punitive Damage Award

    Corporate America has pushed hard for years to hold the line on punitive damages, with some successThe Supreme Court has ruled that excessively high punitive damage awards, designed to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior, can violate the Due Process clause. And the California Supreme Court had held that punitive damages typically should not be more than nine to ten times the size of damages awarded to compensate injured parties.But in a smoking cigarettes case against Philip Morris, a California appellate court yesterday signed off on punitive damages that were 16 times...

California Court Approves 16:1 Punitive Damage Award

Corporate America has pushed hard for years to hold the line on punitive damages, with some success

The Supreme Court has ruled that excessively high punitive damage awards, designed to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior, can violate the Due Process clause. And the California Supreme Court had held that punitive damages typically should not be more than nine to ten times the size of damages awarded to compensate injured parties.

But in a smoking cigarettes case against Philip Morris, a California appellate court yesterday signed off on punitive damages that were 16 times higher than compensatory damages.

Here’s a report from the San Francisco Chronicle about the case, which blames the buy cigarettes company for the 2003 death of a smoker, who had had started smoking cigarettes Marlboros in 1956, at the age of 17.

The suit alleged Philip Morris deceptively marketed cheap cigarette online in the years before the government required warning labels on cigarette packs, the Chronicle reports.

A jury originally awarded the plaintiff $850,000 to cover medical costs, along with pain and suffering, and $28 billion in punitive damages, but the punitive award was later reduced to $13.8 million.

Philip Morris, the Chronicle reports, claimed that punitive damages should be limited to $850,000. It contended that the $13.8 million award violated legal precedent that punitive damages should normally not exceed a 9:1 ratio or a 1:1 ratio in cases where a jury awards substantial compensatory damages.

But the appeals court ruled that $850,000 in compensation is not a “substantial” award against a multibillion-dollar corporation, and further that the 9-1 limit doesn’t apply to defendants whose conduct is egregious, according to the Chronicle.

Steve Callahan, a Philip Morris spokesman, told the Law Blog that the company is considering whether to appeal. “We believe the damage amount is unconstitutionally excessive,” he said. “We agree with the dissenting judge’s opinion that the award violates due process.”