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What Philip Morris Means for Punitives

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to review Philip Morris' appeal of nearly $80 million in damages the cigarette  maker faces in payment to a longtime smoker.

The Associated Press reported the following:

"The Oregon Supreme Court had ruled that the amount wasn't excessive given the 'extraordinarily reprehensible' conduct of Philip Morris in marketing cigarettes. "

However, a decision in the case could shield companies from large jury awards.  Peter Lattman over at the WSJ.com's Law Blog says that the decision could also answer the $64 billion question: How Samuel Alito will come out on punitive damages.

In Punitive Damages on the Supreme Court Docket, Lattman says that the Philip Morris case has set the stage for "a clarification of the Court’s muddled guidelines on punitive damages." He writes:

"The issue the court will address is whether the award against the tobacco maker was so disproportionate to the injury as to violate the constitutional guarantee of due process.
The amount of the award was 97 times greater than the roughly $500,000 in compensatory damages awarded by the jury to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer.

"So how will Justices Roberts and Alito vote on punitive damages?"

Posted by Laurel Newby on May 31, 2006 at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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