The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the tobacco industrys appeal of a Florida ruling that may help thousands of smokers sue cigarette makers over smoking-related illnesses. LitigationLiability
The nations highest court today turned away arguments by Altria Group Inc. (MO)s Philip Morris USA, Reynolds American Inc. (RAI)s R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Vector Group Ltd. (VGR)s Liggett unit. They challenged a $2.5 million award to the family of Charlotte Douglas, who died in 2008 of lung cancer at age 62. The Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to intervene in tobacco litigation in Florida, where more than 4,500 smoker suits are pending. So far, Florida juries have returned verdicts totaling more than $500 million against the industry, the companies said in their appeal. Cigarette makers are seeking to limit the effect of a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision, which said a jurys factual findings against the industry in a class-action case could serve as the starting point for individual suits. The Florida high court reaffirmed that ruling in the Douglas case.