New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 21, 2004
In Phase I, the jury returned a verdict finding cigarettes not defective and denying medical monitoring, but allowing a cessation program, to be funded by the $592 million damages awarded over five to 10 years. The judge awarded a judgment to the plaintiffs independent of the jury’s verdict, saying its role was merely advisory.
The Phase II trial will determine the nature, types and components of the cessation of smoking programs, the parameters of such programs, the procedures to be adopted for the establishment, implementation of such programs, the requirements of eligibility of the class of Louisiana smokers who desire to participate in such programs, the duration of the programs, methods for insertion of these programs into the existing public and private healthcare infrastructure in the State of Louisiana, the cost of the programs and the procedures for the establishment and the administration of the court-supervised fund….
Individual addiction is not a prerequisite to participation in the program. Individual causation, to the extent that it is an issue, will be determined administratively, and not by a jury….
Based upon the Phase I trial record, this trial court has determined that the principles of comparative fault do not, and more importantly, should not apply to this case. Applying comparative fault to this intentional act, fraud and conspiracy case would vitiate the very public policy that underlies the doctrine of comparative fault….
The Phase I trial record showed, and the jury found, that the defendants committed fraud and intentionally conspired to commit that fraud….
The liability trial record in this case also revealed that the defendants’ intentional wrongdoing is, was and will always be fundamentally different in nature than plaintiffs’ negligence, if any. A true comparison of fault…is simply not possible….
The evidence in this case led the Phase I jury to the findings that defendants’ conduct was intentional across the board, and conspiratorial. Accordingly, the defendants should be estopped from making the argument that the public generally, Louisiana smokers in particular, knew or should have known these facts which the defendants have consistently misrepresented to be untrue or unknown….
Consent is not applicable to this case. Based on the trial record, consent is vitiated by the defendants’ superior knowledge and inducement of the plaintiffs’ class members to smoke with the intent and desire that they become addicted….
New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 7, 2007
“The Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit (949 So.2d 1266) affirmed the judgment in part, amended in part and reversed in part, and remanded the case. The court ruled that the trial judge had no authority to break from a jury finding and that there was no “advisory” jury, so it amended the judgment to include the jury findings regarding defect and medical monitoring. It limited the program to only those who began smoking prior to the Louisiana Product Liability Act of 1988. Due to the nature of relief sought – a public cessation program provided to the class as a whole — the court found it unnecessary for the plaintiffs to prove individual addiction or reliance on the defendant’s fraudulent statements. It ruled that failure to allow cross-examination of the representative plaintiffs was a harmless error. It found that the statute of limitations had been tolled by the defendants’ continuing wrongful acts. It also rejected the $440 million in prejudgment interest and remanded the case with instructions that the trial court reduce the damages by more than $312 million in speculative costs beyond what was medically necessary.”
New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 2, 2008
“Smokers, tobacco firms to meet in court again”
Attorneys for Louisiana smokers and the nation’s biggest tobacco companies will square off in a hearing today on a case that made headlines in 2004 when a Civil District Court jury ruled that the firms should pay $519 million to help Louisianians kick the smoking habit for conspiring to mislead the public about tobacco’s effects. Retired Civil District Judge Richard Ganucheau, who presided over the trial that led to the jury’s verdict, scheduled the hearing to help him decide where the two sides in the case stand in light of a state appeals court’s move last fall to slash the jury award to $279 million.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling, which the state and U.S. Supreme Courts have let stand, also limited participation in the smoking cessation programs the jury ordered to people whose claims for such assistance accrued before Sept. 1, 1988, the effective date of the Louisiana products liability act.
In its verdict, the jury found that cigarettes are not defective products as defined by that law. Unless a product is deemed defective according to one of several standards set out in the statute, the product’s manufacturer can’t be held liable for damage it causes.”
Attorneys for the plaintiff class will ask Ganucheau to order the tobacco companies to explain why they haven’t put $279 million, plus interest, into a court account to pay for stop-smoking assistance. As an alternative, they suggest that Ganucheau order the two sides to tell him how much less the tobacco firms would owe if they didn’t have to pay for smoking cessation programs for post-1988 smokers.”
The tobacco firms’ lawyers insist their clients owe the plaintiffs nothing and the case should be thrown out because there is no jury finding or evidence in the record to establish that any claims accrued before the 1988 liability cutoff. The only remaining claims, those that accrued after Sept. 1, 1988, are those for which the 4th Circuit has ruled the companies aren’t liable, the companies say.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 23, 2008
“Tobacco companies ordered to pay up. Money to finance stop-smoking effort.”
By Susan Finch — Now that higher courts have, for the most part, upheld a 2004 New Orleans jury verdict that the nation’s biggest tobacco companies should pay to help thousands of Louisianians kick the smoking habit, the time has come for the companies pay up, a Civil District Court judge decreed Monday.
Refusing pleas from tobacco companies for a new trial in the case, Judge Richard Ganucheau ordered the companies to put $263.5 million in the court registry for a statewide, 10-year stop-smoking program that the jury ordered after deciding that the firms had put out distorted information about tobacco’s effects on health.
Ganucheau’s judgment said the $263.5 million will underwrite reimbursement of expenses for smoking-cessation-related medication, telephone “quit lines,” health systems intervention and other related programs, all overseen by a third-party administrator he will appoint. Ganucheau’s Monday ruling, the latest in a class-action case that has dragged out for 12 years, was greeted by the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Russ Herman, as a long-overdue step that will finally get justice for eligible smokers who haven’t been able to quit. Some people who needed the help have died while the case has been hung up so long in appeals, he said.
But New Orleans lawyer Phil Wittmann, attorney for one of the defendants, Philip Morris USA, said the companies will ask Ganucheau to hold off requiring them to put up any money until they can ask higher courts to review the matter.
The companies were allowed such a “suspensive appeal” to challenge the jury’s award of $519 million for a broad array of help programs for smokers.
In response to the companies’ protests, the state’s 4th Circuit Court of appeal last year cut the award by more than half, in the process eliminating some of the programs the jury envisioned, and limited eligibility for remaining programs to people whose claims arose before the state’s products liability law took effect in September 1988.