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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Jacobson

827 F.2d 1119 (1987)

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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Jacobson

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

827 F.2d 1119 (1987)

Facts

Walter Jacobson (defendant) was a well-respected news anchor who presented the nightly feature Walter Jacobson’s Perspective (Perspective) for a CBS-affiliated station in Chicago. The Perspective broadcast a series on cigarettes that ended with an episode on the marketing of tobacco to children and young adults. The segment focused on Viceroy cigarettes, which were manufactured by Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (Brown & Williamson) (plaintiff). Jacobson reported that Brown & Williamson sought to advertise cigarettes to young people by associating Viceroys with “pot, wine, beer, and sex.” Brown & Williamson had previously hired an advertising agency to create a marketing strategy that minimized concerns about smoking. However, the plan created by the agency and described by Jacobson was never implemented for Viceroy cigarettes. The proposal was so disliked that Brown & Williamson cut ties with the advertising agency. Jacobson was informed before the broadcast that Brown & Williamson said they never adopted the marketing strategy and that no ads were found associating Viceroy cigarettes with pot, beer, wine, or sex. However, Jacobson did not change his script. The broadcast was shown four times and was viewed by over 2.5 million people. Brown & Williamson filed a libel suit against Jacobson and CBS in federal court. Brown & Williamson requested $7 million in compensatory damages and $10.1 million in punitive damages. The district court found the broadcast was defamatory per se, so Brown & Williamson relied on the doctrine of presumed damages and did not introduce evidence of specific monetary loss. The jury awarded Brown & Williamson $3 million in presumed compensatory damages and $2.05 million in punitive damages. The district court reduced the compensatory damages to $1.00 and upheld the award of punitive damages. Brown & Williamson appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bauer, C.J.)

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