High Court Tosses Phillip Morris Verdict

February 28th, 2007

Re: AJC article, “High Court Tosses Phillip Morris Verdict” by Mark Sherman, about SCOTUS striking down punitive damages of 79 million in a tobacco death case

To the Editor,

If punitive damages are supposed to deter wrongdoing only towards the plaintiff, one can now claim that causing the death of a person should not incur this penalty. After all, defendants cannot kill that plaintiff again.

The Court has forgotten Phillip Morris’ attempt to lobby the marketing of cigarettes as beneficial to the Czech government in 2001. Their research found the early deaths of smokers to be a savings over retiree pensions and health care costs.

As an asthmatic, I am unable to rent affordable apartments in multi-unit dwellings, because non-smoking clauses are largely unenforceable in leases. If not for the legislation banning smoking in the workplace, many among the nearly 20 million adult asthmatics would be unemployable.

Only decisive verdicts against the intentional poisoning of the population for profit, affecting both voluntary and involuntary smokers, can limit future damages and set a precedent for other polluting industries to note.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: Atlanta Journal-Const.

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Comments Feed2 Comments

  1. I agree

    The worth of the average life is around $200,000, in many cases less than that, and in some cases punitive damages are limited to similar sums. The GOP is lobbying for a law that will award damages in lawsuits first to any health insurer that may have paid for the victims care and then, only after that money has been completely repaid, to the victims lawyer and the victim.

    Increasingly, many victims, nomatter how much they have been hurt, or how obviously the connection is provable, are still unable to get legal help because their injury is simply not worth the lawyers time. This is where we are going, where the victims are blamed and asked to pay the costs of increased corporate profits in the name of global profitability and competitiveness.

    Will your life be the next to be sacrificed?

  2. Barbara Rubin

    Thank you for your comment.

    In response to your rhetorical question, “Will your life be the next to be sacrificed?”, the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’. It already has. I was forced into disability retirement from pesticide poisoning at a very young age (45). I doubt I will never see the inside of a court room to obtain justice in the largest sense of the word.

    The loss of precedents through legal blocades, no matter how well documented the case, is the main reason why industry is free to harm consumers. First they have to be caught in the act, a rare occurence unless you have some basic understanding of science and research or one hell of a smart doctor. If the culprits do get ‘caught’, then you have the even more difficult task of finding counsel willing to go the distance to the end of the ‘game’. The matter typically ends in settlement and sealed records.

    Then, no one ever knows and any cost to industry is added to the cost of doing business. Nickels and dimes. Justice is never served in this manner and the victim rarely collects enough to make a difference anyway. As you say, the line of people entitled to collect ahead of them precludes true compensation for the damage done. But it is a thriving industry of its own, which merely serves to perpetuate the problem.

    There ought to be District Attorneys for civil plaintiffs in which non-criminal actions (the EPA and FDA does not prosecute poisonings in the main) can be represented by the ‘state’ to protect society from the real danger.

    Legalized murder and mayhem. There’s a lot of that going around.


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