by Cyrus Dugger, Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 05:40:23 AM EDT
On Wednesday, the Florida State Supreme Court threw out the punitive damages award of $145 billion previously granted by a lower court to a class of approximately 700,000 Floridian plaintiffs suing cigarette companies for their medical injuries from smoking in Florida.
If you saw the newspaper articles or online commentaries you'd think that the decision is an overwhelming victory for tobacco companies.
The reality is that, although it is a victory for tobacco companies, it is not an absolute one.
The Florida State Supreme Court also found that:
1. Smoking cigarettes causes aortic aneurysm, bladder cancer, cerebrovascular disease, cervical cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer (specifically, adenocarinoma, large cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma), complications of pregnancy, oral cavity/tongue cancer, pancreatic cancer, peripheral vascular disease, pharyngeal cancer, and stomach cancer)
2. Nicotine in cigarettes is addictive.
3. The defendants placed cigarettes on the market that were defective and unreasonably dangerous.
4. The defendants concealed or omitted material information not otherwise.
known or available knowing that the material was false or misleading or failed to disclose a material fact concerning the health effects or addictive nature of smoking cigarettes or both.
5. All of the defendants agreed to misrepresent information relating to the health effects of cigarettes or the addictive nature of cigarettes with the intention that smokers and the public would rely on this information to their detriment.
6. The defendants agreed to conceal or omit information regarding the health effects of cigarettes or their addictive nature with the intention that smokers and the public would rely on this information to their detriment.
7. All of the defendants sold or supplied cigarettes that were defective.
8. All of the defendants were negligent.
Although some might say that this is all somewhat obvious, this was the first time a court found these facts during a class action lawsuit that went to trial.
This ruling means that every one of the approximately 700,000 original class action plaintiffs can re-file and sue as individuals with the support of the findings of the court which means they now must only prove that they actually individually suffered injuries (as opposed to having to prove that cigarettes can actually injure).