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Saturday, February 24, 2007

 

Philip Morris

Jessie Williams a chain smoker died at age 67 of lung cancer after smoking three packs of Marlboro cigarettes a day. His widow sued Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, accusing them of misinforming of the dangers of smoking. A jury awarded the widow $821,485.50 in compensatory damages and $79 million in punitive damages. The case was eventually brought before the Supreme Court on October 1, 2006 and decided February 20, 2007. In a 5 to4 decision the Supreme Court overturned the $79.5 million an Oregon jury awarded the widow because they thought the jury over calculated the harm smoking caused to other individuals other than the widow who brought the case.

The case's constitutionality was based on the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and how it imposes the states from imposing grossly excessive punishments (BMW v. Gore and State Farm v. Campbell)

I agree with the decision; however, I do not read this in the Fourteenth Amendment. I read that "nor shall any State deprive any persons of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law." I don't see anywhere where states can impose fines or punishments. I see that they can not deprive these things without due process of law. The damages were excessive to say the least. This case seems ridiculous to me that a jury would award so much money to a widow because her husband died from smoking cigarettes. Smoking was his choice! Philip Morris did not send a representative to sit there with a gun to his head making him smoke three packs a day. He could have quit when reports came out the smoking may not be that good for you.

Comments:
I think it's interesting that not only do we have issues in the court concerning the harm that smoking causes, but now we have issues in the courts demanding the right to smoke- like the smoking ban In Colorado bars. I wonder what the Supreme Court will say about that?
 
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