In Court, Philip Morris Uses Civil-Rights Smokescreen

Tobacco giant plays civil-rights card in battle with Oregon court over $79M judgment
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2008 3:17 PM CST
Philip Morris has been locked in a legal battle against a woman whose husband died from lung cancer in 1997, after smoking three packs of Marlboros a day for more than 40 years.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Philip Morris has cast itself as a civil-rights victim being denied due process, Stephanie Mencimer writes for Mother Jones. The tobacco giant, ordered by an Oregon jury in 1999 to pay $79 million in punitive damages to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer, has been fighting the award ever since, taking its case to the US Supreme Court three times.

The high court twice urged Oregon to lower the award but has been ignored. After the Oregon’s court latest maneuver sidestepping the order, Philip Morris likened its plight to that of the NAACP in a 1958 case in Alabama. The widow’s attorney called the strategy “brazen,” but she now faces a Supreme Court potentially irked at its snub from a lower court.