[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 16:05 GMT
Tobacco firm wins payout appeal
Man smoking cigarette
Several groups want tighter restrictions on payouts
The US Supreme Court has thrown out a ruling that tobacco firm Philip Morris must pay $79.5m (40.7m) in punitive damages after the death of a smoker.

The narrow verdict is seen as good news for large firms seeking to limit the payouts that can be awarded by juries.

The court decided 5-to-4 that the earlier ruling must be overturned.

It said the jury had not been told that it could only fine the firm for harm done to the plaintiff, not to other smokers whose cases were not before it.

Restrictions demanded

The case was brought by Mayola Williams, whose husband Jesse died of lung cancer in 1997 after smoking for 40 years.

Ms Williams sued the cigarette manufacturer for fraud on behalf of her husband.

She had claimed that the jury decision was right because it had punished Philip Morris for a "massive market-directed fraud" over many years - misleading people into thinking cigarettes were not dangerous or addictive.

Ms Williams had argued that her husband had believed tobacco companies when they said the product was safe.

Her payout had earlier been upheld by the Oregon state Supreme Court.

In the appeal, Philip Morris said the jury should only have been allowed to punish it for the harm done to Mr Williams and not to other smokers.

Philip Morris also asked the court to decide whether the payout had been "constitutionally excessive", but the judges made no comment on this.

A number of organisations, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce have called for greater restrictions on the sums which can be ordered in damages.




SEE ALSO
Tobacco firms won't be stubbed out
27 Sep 06 |  Business
Tobacco firms sued over low tar
25 Sep 06 |  Business
Tobacco companies lose civil case
17 Aug 06 |  Business

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific