Smoker in Florida awarded $300m damages against Philip Morris

In one of the largest individual tobacco verdicts ever in the US, a former smoker in Florida has been awarded a total of $300m (£182m) by a state court against Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of Altria Group.

Cindy Naugle, a 61-year-old garage office manager in Fort Lauderdale who suffers from emphysema, was awarded $56m in compensatory damages plus $244m in punitive damages. Philip Morris has been ordered to pay the entire punitive part of the verdict, and 90 per cent of the compensatory damages, after the Broward Circuit Court jury decided that Ms Naugle had been 10 per cent responsible for her predicament.

Ms Naugle's lawyers successfully argued that Philip Morris had been guilty of fraud, concealing what it knew full well, that smoking cigarettes was addictive and damaging to the health. Ms Naugle had been smoking her favourite brand of Benson & Hedges – marketed as making women look more feminine and sophisticated, her lawyer said – since 1968, when she was 20 years old, in the belief that she would look more grown-up.

Florida tobacco litigation began in 1994 as a class-action lawsuit, in which the BAT subsidiary Brown & Williamson, Lorillard and RJ Reynolds were named as well as Philip Morris. It covered a possible 700,000 Florida smokers. The suit resulted in actual damages for three plaintiffs and a $145bn pool, but the verdict along with the original class-action suit were thrown out on appeal. Instead, potential beneficiaries were allowed to press ahead on an individual basis, and use findings established in the original trial. Some 3,000 such lawsuits are going forward.

In a statement, Philip Morris indicated it would fight the judgment. The jury in the Naugle case had been wrongly allowed to rely on findings by an earlier one, while the judge in the case had made "numerous erroneous rulings," it said. The punitive damages in particular were "grossly excessive," and a violation of the constitution.

Whatever happens, however, the immediate outcome is another setback for the tobacco industry, which has now lost eight out of 10 individual cases that have come to trial, in some instances after rejecting settlement offers of as little as $10,000. A further 50 trials are already set for 2010.

If the award to Ms Naugle is massive, it nonetheless pales beside the $3bn of punitive damages originally handed down by a California court in 2001 against Philip Morris, in the case of a Richard Boeker. On appeal the sum was reduced to $100m, but both sides appealed again, and Mr Boeker died in 2002. In the end, the company reportedly paid $82.5m.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

£12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding Insurance Brokerag...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders