Supreme Court to Hear $79M Cigarette Verdict for 3rd Time

Justices to decide if Oregon court ignored instruction to limit punitive damages
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2008 1:04 PM CDT
Attorney Robert S. Peck, right, representing Mayola Williams, widow of Jesse Williams, who died of lung cancer, addresses the Supreme Court in Washington in this Oct. 31, 2006 artist rendering.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a third appeal of Oregon’s $79.5-million punitive-damage award against Philip Morris. The justices have twice sent the verdict back to Oregon’s high court, part of an effort to limit punitive damages to nine times the size of compensatory damages. This time, the AP reports, they will consider only whether Oregon courts ignored their previous ruling.

With interest, the Oregonian reports, the original 1999 award is now worth roughly $145 million. "The court has previously instructed the Oregon appellate courts to properly apply the constitutional standards to the punitive damage award in this case," said an approving tobacco-company lawyer. "The Oregon courts have not done so, and so the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case once again."