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Philip Morris U.S.A. v. Williams

United States Supreme Court
127 S. Ct. 1057 (2007)


Facts

Jesse Williams, a heavy smoker of cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris (defendant), died because of health problems associated with his smoking. His widow (plaintiff) brought this suit in Oregon state court for negligence and deceit. A jury found that Williams’ death was caused by smoking, that he smoked partly because he believed it was safe to do so, and that Philip Morris knowingly and falsely led him to believe that this was so. The jury ultimately found that Philip Morris was negligent and engaged in deceit. On the deceit claim, the jury awarded compensatory damages of $821,000 ($21,000 economic and $800,000 non-economic) along with $79.5 million in punitive damages. On appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, Philip Morris argued that the trial court should have instructed the jury that it could not seek to punish Philip Morris for injury to other persons (other smokers) not present before the court. The Oregon Supreme Court judge rejected this proposal and upheld the verdict against Philip Morris. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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