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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

High Court Dismisses Philip Morris Appeal

(CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out Philip Morris' appeal of a $79.5 million award to a smoker's widow, saying an earlier decision for review was "improvidently granted."

In a one-page order, the high court ended the cigarette maker's 10-year legal battle to keep Mayola Williams from collecting the judgment awarded in a fraud trial in 1999.

The ruling leaves in place an Oregon Supreme Court ruling for Williams.

The judgment has ballooned to more than $155 million with interest, 60 percent of which would go to an Oregon crime victims' fund. Williams stands to receive up to $65 million before taxes and attorney payments, according to her counsel, Robert Peck.

Williams' husband, Jesse, died from lung cancer in 1997, having smoked since the 1950's.

The high court has issued two rulings affecting the case, including a 5-4 decision in 2007 that jurors can't punish a cigarette maker for harm done to non-party smokers. In a ruling on another case, the justices limited punitive damages to nine times the actual economic damages.

Philip Morris had asked the high court to overturn the 1999 award and order a new trial, arguing that jurors had been given flawed instructions.

The Oregon Supreme Court agreed that the instructions were flawed, but upheld the ruling for Williams.

The U.S. high court on Tuesday chose not to review the state Supreme Court's final decision.

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