Appeals Court Overturns Record $145 Billion Tobacco Award

By Agence France-Presse An appeals court May 21 overturned a record $145 billion punitive damage award by a jury three years ago against major U.S. tobacco companies to compensate Florida smokers. Florida's Third District Court of Appeals overturned the so-called Engle class action lawsuit, which awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages and $145 billion in punitive damages. "We reverse with instructions that the class be decertified," said the opinion. The court said the smokers' claims "are uniquely individualized and cannot satisfy the 'predominance' and 'superiority' requirements imposed by Florida's class action rules." The ruling reverses a decision in 2000 ordering tobacco companies -- including Altria's Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. -- to pay 500,000 sick smokers for misleading them about the risks of smoking. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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