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A Los Angeles jury awarded $13.8 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris USA on Monday in the retrial of a case that originally netted a record $28 billion to a lifetime smoker. “After hearing weeks of improper arguments and evidence that violated state and federal law on punitive damages, the jury still managed to reject plaintiff’s patently unreasonable request,” said Murray Garnick, senior vice president and associate general counsel at Altria Group Inc., parent corporation of Philip Morris. The company released a statement soon after the verdict: “California jury rejects request for billions in damages.” “Even so,” Garnick continued, “we believe that any punitive damages award is unwarranted based on the facts in this case and that this award is unconstitutionally excessive.” The smoker, Betty Bullock, who was 17 when she started smoking in the 1950s, died one year after obtaining the original 2002 award, which later was reduced to $28 million. Bullock also received $850,000 in compensatory damages at that time. Last year, California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed the punitive damages altogether, finding that the judge in the original trial had failed to give necessary jury instructions. In particular, the court ruled, the judge refused to allow Philip Morris to provide these instructions: “You are not to impose punishment for harms suffered by persons other than the plaintiff before you.” The $28 billion award, the appellate panel concluded, was equivalent to $1 million for each of the alleged 28,000 deaths in California caused by smoking during the past 40 years. The appellate court ordered a new trial on the amount of punitive damages. The new award goes to Jodie Bullock, daughter of Betty Bullock. Bullock v. Philip Morris Inc., et al, No. BC249171 (L.A. County, Calif., Sup. Ct.). Michael J. Piuze, of the Law Offices of Michael J. Piuze in Los Angeles, who has represented both women in both trials, did not return a call for comment.

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