An Inclusive Litany

8/14/00

A jury in a class action lawsuit brought by Florida smokers ordered the five leading tobacco companies to pay $145 billion in punitive damages, the largest liability award to date and far exceeding the companies' net worth. The judgement will almost certainly be reversed on appeal, thanks to a change in the rules for appeal brought by the Florida legislature, which feared that the state might otherwise not receive the $13 billion the industry had already agreed to pay in settling the state's own lawsuit. That settlement came only after the legislature rigged legal rules to prevent the industry from putting forth its strongest defense.

[Ed.: In a survey of state treasurers two years later, the Investor Responsibility Research Center found that seven states—Texas, Connecticut, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia—had taken millions of dollars intended to reimburse them for tobacco-related health expenditures and invested the funds in tobacco companies. As little of 5 percent of tobacco-settlement funds were being directed towards smoking prevention programs.]

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