- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

BOSTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) — A $28 billion civil verdict in California against the tobacco industry was the biggest jury award in 2002, Lawyers Weekly USA said Monday.

As usually happens with such major jury awards, a judge reduced the amount to $28 million.

Paul Martinek, publisher and editor-in-chief of the newspaper, said it is typical that such astronomical awards are reduced or settled for less.

The verdict was returned in October against Philip Morris in the case of a 64-year-old woman who blamed the cigarette maker for her lung cancer. She started smoking when she was 17.

The verdict was more than nine times the previous record award of $3 billion against a tobacco company.

The fifth-largest award of 2002, $150 million, was also against Phillip Morris. After a 25-day trial, an Oregon jury found in March in favor of a plaintiff who died from cancer after smoking "light" cigarettes for 23 years.

Since law tar cigarettes account for 87 percent of the current market, that verdict could have a significant impact on future tobacco litigation, Lawyers Weekly said.

The second-largest jury award of 2002 — $2.2 billion — came in Missouri in October in the case of a pharmacist, Robert Courtney, who diluted cancer drugs meant for his patients. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The third-biggest award came in October when a Kentucky jury returned a $270 million verdict in the case of a man burned on the face after a gas explosion at his home.

The fourth-largest award, for $225 million, went against the Ford Motor Co. in a lawsuit filed by two Texas families that lost loved ones ejected from a pickup truck during a rollover accident.

The sixth-highest award was $122 million. In an Alabama case, a jury found against General Motors for eliminating safety features to boost profits in an Oldsmobile vehicle.

A California jury last year awarded $97.2 million, the seventh highest of the year, in a fraud suit involving a convicted drug smuggler.

The next biggest award, $95 million, came in the case of a badly injured child. The Brooklyn, N.Y., jury found that doctors failed to act properly in delivering the child prematurely.

Another New York jury awarded the ninth-biggest award, $91 million, finding against defendants in a medical malpractice suit over a child born with cerebral palsy.

There was a tie for 10th place on the list, jury awards of $80 million, one involving a pair of obstetricians in New York and the other in Missouri against General Motors for an accident in which a woman's car suddenly raced in reverse out of her driveway as she was backing out of her garage.

(For more details, see Web site lawyersweeklyusa.com)

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