Leslie Whiteley
v Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds

San Francisco Superior Court
The Honorable Robert Dondero presiding


Filed 2000

Verdict for the Defendant

Shown here is Leslie Whiteley at age 14, the year after she started to smoke. Soon after the 2000 trial, Whiteley died at the age of 40.

Plaintiff Attorney: Madelyn J. Chaber of Wartnick, Chaber, Harowitz, Smith & Tigerman
Defense Attorney: H. Joseph Escher III of Dechert for R.J. Reynolds, Jeffrey Furr of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice for Philip Morris


  • 1999 – Case filed
  • 2000 – January 18: Opening statements
  • 2000 – March 20: Compensatory verdict: $1.7 million damages
  • 2000 – March 27: Punitive verdict: $20 million damages
  • 2004 – Appeal Court overturns entire verdict.
  • 2007 – May 2: Verdict in second trial: $2.3 million compensatory, $250,000 punitive damages
  • 2007 – September 25: Opening statements in retrial against Philip Morris on punitive damages
  • 2007 – October 24: Closing arguments
  • 2007 – October 29: Verdict in third trial: for Philip Morris


Madelyn Chaber initially won significant compensatory and punitive damages for Leslie Whitely and her husband Leonard. The entire verdict was overturned in 2004. In the second trial, compensatory damages were increased, but punitive damages were substantially reduced. A technical error in the judge’s instruction forced a retrial of the punitive damages phase for Philip Morris. In the third trial, the jury found for Philip Morris.