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Friday, 4 October, 2002, 18:43 GMT 19:43 UK
Philip Morris hit by record damages
Betty Bullock with granddaughter Jacqueline and daughter Jodie
Betty Bullock (l) started smoking at the age of 17
A California jury has ordered cigarette giant Philip Morris to pay $28bn (17bn) in punitive damages to a cancer-stricken smoker.


This jury should have focused on what the plaintiff knew about the health risks of smoking

Philip Morris lawyer
Philip Morris said it planned to appeal to the court to order a new trial, and would ask for a reduction in the size of the award if its request for a new trial was denied.

The award, the biggest ever in a smoking-related lawsuit, comes on top of an initial $850,000 payout intended to compensate the plaintiff - a 64-year-old woman suffering from lung cancer - for her illness.

The verdict wiped 6% off Philip Morris' share price, and dragged other tobacco stocks lower in sympathy.

Cover-up

Lawyers for the plaintiff argued in court that the tobacco giant had deliberately concealed evidence about the links between smoking and cancer.

But Philip Morris' legal team said the company should not be blamed for her decision to keep on smoking.

"This jury should have focused on what the plaintiff knew about the health risks of smoking, and whether anything the company ever said or did improperly influenced her decision to smoke or not to quit," said Philip Morris lawyer William Ohlemeyer.

The plaintiff, Betty Bullock, smoked from the age of 17 until she was diagnosed with cancer in February last year.

The court heard that Ms Bullock had been warned about the health risks of smoking by her doctors.

Record breaker

The punitive damages bill dwarfs an earlier $3bn award set at a separate tobacco trial in June last year.

That award was later reduced to $100m.

Philip Morris has said that the award to Ms Bullock breaches US Supreme Court guidelines which limit punitive damages to four times the size of the compensatory damages.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"The Los Angeles jury deliberated for two days"
Counsel for Philip Morris William Ohlemeyer
"We'll ask the trial judge to reduce this award"
See also:

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