The record, so far, hasn’t been very good for the tobacco companies in the so-called Engle progeny smoker suits. They’ve won, by our count, just two of the 10 cases to go to trial, and the damages awards have been climbing. The first Engle progeny trial resulted in an $8 million verdict against Philip Morris in February. In August, R.J. Reynolds lost a $30 million verdict. And on Thursday, a Broward County, Fla., jury ordered Philip Morris to pay a whopping $300 million — $56 million in compensatory damages and $244 million in punitives — to Cindy Naugle, a former smoker who claimed the company’s negligence was to blame for her emphysema. Here’s Bloomberg’s story on the jury verdict.
The Litigation Daily spoke with Naugle’s attorney, Robert Kelley of Kelley and Uustal, on Friday. We wanted to know, first of all, why this award was so much larger than those in previous Engle trials. One reason, he said, was that this was the first trial in which the jury heard about the “real financial resources” of Philip Morris. The company, he said, claimed that it was worth only $1.7 billion. But he presented witnesses who said that in just the first three quarters of 2009, Philip Morris paid $3.1 billion in dividends to Altria, its parent company. “We broke it down and it was about $10 million a day,” he said. “The jury was impressed by the numbers.”
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