Tuesday, March 25, 2003

March 21, 2002, an Illinois Circuit Court Judge (NO JURY involved) awarded $10.1 billion in damages against Altria Group, formerly known as Phillip Morris. It was not a personal injury case or even a products liability or strict liability case. Rather, it was a civil fraud case. The corporate insurance defense lawyers spin described the case as dealing with "a group of smokers who claim no injury, smoked cigarettes that were always labeled with government health warnings and continue to purchase Marlboro Lights despite the claims in the case." See Phillip Morris' Press Release. Whereas, the plaintiffs attorneys alleged that Phillip Morris violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act with regard to Marlboro "Lights" and the evidence was that Phillip Morris lied - big surprise - to the American public and Illinois residents in advertising claiming "light" cigarettes were safer than standard cigarettes.

Now I'm just a Wisconsin personal injury attorney, but in my humble opinion, the damages awarded will be reduced either by Illinois courts or the U.S. Supreme Court, more likely the former. Though it's only about 15% of what Phillip Morris is worth, $10,100,000,000.00 is an insane amount of money.