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On 2/10/99, a California jury awarded an ex-smoker's estate $2M and the Judge awarded $50M in punitive damages. This incredible decision has rocked the industry, as it represents the first time a Judge has ordered a tobacco company to pay punitive damages. Phillip Morris and its peers have had weak defenses ever since Ligget Co. 'ratted' out the industry last year. Maybe its time for the tobacco companies to enact a new defense that will persuade jurys to exonerate the industry from further actions. It is utterly ridiculous that a smoker should sue the company - as if there's a single smoker anywhere that is oblivious to the fact that they are dangerous. And it is also a sign of the times in this sick society that lawyers lick their chops over this stuff as they assign unfathomable values to damage claims.
When will it end? I pondered recently, what would happen to the entire economy if these cases started to proliferate? I then stumbled upon a new defense for the tobacco industry as I mulled why someone has yet to sue a liquor company for liver cancer or related ailments. What would Chivas Regal's defense be if some alcoholic with a cancer riddled liver were to suddenly launch a spectacular claim like in CA? The Chivas council would stand up in court and say the following:
"Chivas is a product which is to be enjoyed only occasionaly, not several times a day like Mr. Lawsuit here presumes. Mr. Lawsuit has abused the product and we are not responsible for his recklessness. In addition, most of our consumers do not abuse the product which is further evidence that Mr. Lawsuit has not used the product as indicated and that's why he became addicted."
Will a fat lady sue Sara Lee for having a chest-clutching heart attack directly related to her 'addiction'? The counsel for Sara Lee would stand up in court and say:
"Sara Lee pound cake is a product which is to be enjoyed only occasionaly, and especially not in huge portions on a daily basis as Ms. Lawsuit practiced. Ms. Lawsuit's addiction to Sara Lee is a direct result of her abuse of the product. The overwhelming majority of our consumers use the product as indicated, and we are thus not responsible for Ms. Lawsuit's recklessness."
So what is the NEW DEFENSE FOR THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY?
"Phillip Morris cigarettes are a leisure product which is meant to be enjoyed only occasionaly, not several times a day as Mr. Lawsuit has practiced. When we sell someone a pack of 20 cigarettes, we certainly don't intend for them to smoke the entire pack in one day. At Philip Morris, we intend for a smoker to enjoy perhaps a cigarette after dinner, or when relaxing on the weekends - we have never depicted the type of abusive use that Mr. Lawsuit has practiced in any advertisement. When we added nicotine to the product we simply intended to make it more enjoyable. There are many smokers who smoke far fewer cigarettes than Mr. Lawsuit, and we are not responsible for his addcition, which is a direct result of his recklessness."
If I were a juror, I'd honestly buy the above argument.... and here's the homerun: THERE HAVE BEEN NO STUDIES SHOWING THAT CIGARETTES CAUSE AILMENTS OR LEAD TO ADDICTION WHEN ONE USES THEM ONLY OCCASIONALLY, AND UNTIL THAT STUDY IS DONE THE TOBACCO COMPANIES CAN CLAIM THAT THEIR PRODUCT WAS NOT BEING USED AS INDICATED, i.e. THAT IT WAS SIMPLY BEING USED IN A RECKLESS MANNER.
Please post your arguments and opinions both for & against the recent
decision by the CA court.
P.S. I don't smoke, in fact I abhor cigarette smoke, but the lawsuit
thing is morally wrong and it must be stopped before it spreads to other industries that make potentially dangerous products.
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