On February 18, yesterday, Philip Morris was ordered to pay $8 million to the widow, one Elaine Hess, of a chain smoker who had died of lung cancer. This was the first tobacco case to go to trial since 2006 when the Florida Supreme Court voided a class-action jury award of $149 billion and ordered each plaintiff to file separately. It was estimated that there were 700,000 smokers in this class.
The trial began on February 3 and included video of testimony given to Congress in 1994 by tobacco company executives. Some were from Philip Morris. This testimony denied that tobacco smoking was addictive. During the trial, Philip Morris attorneys maintained that Mr. Hess could have just quit smoking and cited evidence that he had been capable of that.
There are 8,000 other suits in the pipeline so this case was closely watched both by tobacco companies and by plaintiff attorneys. Tobacco companies have seldom lost lawsuits from smokers until recently. Large damage awards have usually been reversed on appeal. Philip Morris is appealing another case to the U.S. Supreme Court where a jury awarded $79.5 million in an Oregon case.
One of the Philip Morris attorneys has stated that the company will appeal this Hess verdict.