Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Since trial in Illinois that resulted in a County Circuit Court Judge awarding $10.1 billion in damages against Altria Group (NYSE: MO), formerly known as Phillip Morris, the stock of that company has been destroyed. One thing I have noted as a personal injury attorney in Wisconsin is that often times people do not understand that companies do not have to pay those awards immediately and that frequently huge awards like this are reveresed or lowered quite substantially on appeal. For example, in the infamous McDonald's personal injury case (note the Illinois case is not a personal injury case), the appeals court ended up reducing the award to about 10% of the original award. And so, my advice in these situations is not to allow one case to completely change your investment strategies.

As I said before, I'm just a Wisconsin personal injury attorney, but in my humble opinion, the damages awarded will be reduced or reversed entirely - if the case does not settle which is very possible. Public pressure does get to judges, who are politicians, and to legislatures, and in Illinois there have already been a lot of financial difficulties and layoffs. Kraft, an Altria subsidiary, is in fact based in my hometown of Glenview, Illinois.