Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
A day after winning a blockbuster $3 billion punitive damages verdict against Philip Morris Inc., Michael Piuze was reluctant to boast. That should be worrisome to the company and to other cigarette makers because Piuze gave credit to the work of other lawyers who, he said, have changed cigarette litigation from the quixotic, bankrupting crusade of years past to something closer to an off-the-shelf suit that any good tort lawyer can bring. Piuze said he persuaded jurors with a selection of “golden documents” — once-secret industry documents made public in lawsuits by state attorneys general and others over the past several years. They detail decades of industry lies about the addictiveness and health effects of smoking, he said. He thinks his strong identification with his client, Richard Boeken, also helped him with the jury. “We are the same age. We were both two-pack-a-day Marlboro smokers,” he said. “We both started smoking at 12 or 13. I quit 20 years ago. He didn’t. I could have been him. He could have been me.” Boeken, 56, a securities dealer, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999 after 40 years of smoking. The cancer has spread to his brain and is considered terminal. Piuze said he decided not to challenge the admission of Boeken’s past dependence on heroin, methadone and alcohol. Instead, he contrasted his client’s success in kicking those addictions with his fatal inability to quit smoking. Piuze has won one of the biggest individual verdicts in history, as well as the biggest individual tobacco verdict — by a long shot. After a trial of more than two months, and seven days of deliberations, the jury awarded Boeken $5.5 million in compensatory damages, plus the $3 billion in punitives. Piuze’s victory was just the latest in a series of verdicts that have turned a Los Angeles courthouse into a house of horrors for defendants. Two years ago, a Los Angeles jury returned a $4.9 billion verdict against General Motors Corp. at the same site. It was reduced by the trial judge to $1.2 billion and is on appeal. BIG TOBACCO’S BIG LOSSES Although Boeken’s suit was the first cigarette case to go to trial in Los Angeles, Big Tobacco has suffered three multimillion-dollar losses on the West Coast — two in San Francisco and one in Oregon. Anti-smoking advocates credit the success of state laws and educational programs that have cut smoking rates and changed attitudes in California. The trial was a first for Piuze, who is better known as a successful litigator of automobile crashworthiness cases, including a big win against General Motors in January. He went out of his way to credit the help of Madelyn Chaber and Robert Brown of Wartnick, Chaber, Harowitz & Tigerman in San Francisco, the lawyers who won the two earlier California tobacco verdicts. Piuze offered similar help to other California lawyers who want to take a run at tobacco companies, saying of his victory, “It should be a call to arms to ambitious plaintiffs’ product liability lawyers to go get ‘em.” Philip Morris Inc. did not return calls seeking comment. The company is expected to appeal.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.