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Jury Awards $28 Billion to Smoker

October 08, 2002

Re "Philip Morris Ordered to Pay $28 Billion to Smoker," Oct. 5: The Los Angeles jury award last week of $28 billion in punitive damages to a smoker with lung cancer is absolutely absurd. The jury forewoman, by way of explanation, stated: "Only one in 28,000 smokers get to come into the courtroom. Based on what we awarded in the first phase, we wanted to award $1 million for each person." Doesn't she realize that this money would not be going to 28,000 people and that this is not a tobacco settlement award? The smoker with lung cancer, Betty Bullock, who may have only three months to live, will never see a penny of the award. Can't the jurors see that they will only be enriching the pockets of the family and their attorney to this extent? I don't think that any ordinary citizen's life is worth much more than a million, and there just shouldn't be billion-dollar jury awards. I think that everybody has a choice. The jury should not have awarded anything beyond the $850,000 in compensation that she received.

Julian P. Foley

Rancho Palos Verdes

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One wonders if the jurors who so generously awarded $28 billion to the litigant for her self-inflicted malady realize that, thanks to our complex tax structure, we all pay. And as these unwarranted lawsuits take their toll on the tobacco industry, cigarettes may one day become just another lucrative commodity of illegal drug smugglers.

Would that be preferable, or more advantageous, for our society as a whole?

Hans J. Plickert

Fallbrook

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What about the thousands, perhaps millions, of other smokers who contracted lung cancer and died from it--and their survivors?

My late husband, Warner Law, was a heavy smoker for 40 years. He was also a true gentleman, a wonderful life partner and a great, award-winning writer. Our 30 anniversary would have been on Oct. 14, but I lost him to lung cancer, which had spread to other parts of his body as well, 23 years ago.

Since I am not litigious, I have not asked any tobacco company for recompense for my husband's murder. That's what it is, murder. The tobacco companies know their products are lethal to their users, but they don't care. If smokers are addicted to cigarettes, tough luck. It's their own fault, right?

My sympathies to Betty Bullock. I hope she and her daughter and granddaughter can enjoy a few more years together.

Carol Russell Law

Los Angeles

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