/ June 13, 2008

Philip Morris Goes Back to Court..Again

A long fought case will make its way back to the Supreme Court in the near future as the court has decided to hear the arguments for Philip Morris v. Williams once again. What began in 1999 as a lawsuit from a widow seeking punitive damages has now escalated into on of the most publicized and damaging cases for the cigarette company yet. Mayola Williams originally brought suit against the cigarette giant claiming that they misled her husband by making him believe his years of smoking would do no harm to his health.

After years of arguments and almost victories for Williams, Philip Morris wants to reopen the case, this time to challenge the amount of damages they are expected to pay. The case has bounced back and forth between the Oregon Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court on the basis on constitutionality. While Philip Morris claims that a requirement for them to pay such an “excessive” fee in punitive damages to someone not identified directly as the victim in the situation is not only unlawful but also unconstitutional. Philip Morris will fight their case on the grounds of cases similar to this where those awarded punitive damages are not given nearly as much as is proposed in this case. They aim to win over the court by accusing the Oregon courts of attempting to ignore established Supreme Court precedence. Nearly 140 million dollars is up for grabs pending the decision of this case after almost 10 years of being held up in court. The futures of the Williams family and Philip Morris both rest on this decision, not to mention the new precedence that will arise for a lawsuit of this kind.

Source: Bloomberg

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