Wednesday, October 20, 1999 Published at 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Tobacco industry faces $500bn payout
Cigarette firms wanted to settle on an individual basis
US tobacco companies could face paying up to $500bn damages after an appeals court ruled that 500,000 smokers can be awarded compensation in a single lump sum.
Dan Webb, lead attorney for the tobacco companies, insisted that a single award would cause an "enormous amount of irreparable harm to the industry".
In July, jurors found the five largest US cigarette makers and industry groups had produced a defective and deadly product.
The same jury is to determine damages in the second phase of the trial, due to begin on 1 November.
US juries have awarded damages in smoking liability cases only five times - twice in Florida and once in New Jersey, Oregon and California.
Both Florida verdicts and the New Jersey verdict were overturned on appeal.
The $206bn national settlement reached with the tobacco industry in November bars states from suing to recoup the costs of treating sick smokers, but does not stop lawsuits by individuals.
The Florida defendants are Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco, the Liggett Group and the industry's Council for Tobacco Research-USA and Tobacco Institute Inc.