One of the most spectacular civil trials of the decade was decided in Miami last week, when a jury decided the tobacco industry had deceived and sickened untold thousands of people, and nobody involved in the case was allowed to talk about it.

The case, brought by lawyers Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, is of exceptional importance, since it’s the first anti-tobacco suit tried successfully as a class action on behalf of all of a certain group of people – in this case Floridians harmed by smoking. With potential damages in the billions, and the certainty that similar cases will be filed elsewhere, it’s far and away the most serious blow the cigarette industry has ever sustained. Last year’s much-touted settlements with state attorneys general, which will cost the cigarette industry little more than some price hikes, seem like a minor business inconvenience by comparison.

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