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Philip Morris USA Inc. finally got lucky in Los Angeles. The company has suffered two major losses in the city, both at the hands of plaintiffs lawyer Michael Piuze: a $3 billion verdict in 2001 (later reduced to $100 million), and a $28 billion verdict in 2002 (reduced to $28 million). But this summer L.A. jurors finally decided to be nice to the tobacco giant. On July 31 a jury in Los Angeles superior court, Central Civil West � affectionately known by defense attorneys as “the bank” for its history of big plaintiff awards � found that Philip Morris wasn’t responsible for the illness of Frederic Reller. The 64-year-old longtime smoker was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2000. Represented by the ubiquitous Piuze, Reller alleged that his cancer was the result of Philip Morris’s failure to inform him of the dangers of smoking. Jurors didn’t buy it. They returned five of six claims in favor of Philip Morris, and hung on the final claim of fraudulent concealment. That claim was to be retried, but Reller died in September, ending the case. For plaintiff Frederic Reller (Marina Del Rey, California) Law Offices of Michael J. Piuze (Los Angeles): Michael Piuze. For defendant Philip Morris USA Inc. (New York) In-house: Vice president and associate general counsel William Ohlemeyer and associate general counsel James Wilson. (Ohlemeyer is with Philip Morris parent company, Altria Group, Inc., and Wilson is with Altria Corporate Services, Inc.) Latham & Watkins (Los Angeles): Vince Herron, Beth Wilkinson, of counsel Karen Leviton, and associates Paul Allulis, Allen Gardner, Sylvia Garfinkle, Elizabeth Hickey, Tamarra Matthews, Amy Potter, and Nathan Vitan. (All are in Washington, D.C., except Herron, Leviton, and Hickey, who are in Los Angeles. Garfinkle is now with Georgetown Law School’s Domestic Violence Clinic.) Philip Morris is a long-standing client of the firm. It retained Wilkinson � a federal prosecutor who worked on the Timothy McVeigh trial � for this case in February 2002.

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