(CN) – A tobacco company stands to further reduce a $5 million punitive damage award to the family of a man who smoked from age 13 until he died of lung cancer at 57. A New York appellate division ordered a new trial on damages, saying the jury had been given faulty instructions.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. conceded that Harry Frankson smoked a pack of its Lucky Strikes cigarettes each day for 40 years.
The jury ruled that Brown fraudulently concealed the health risks of smoking and awarded $20 million in punitive damages. The trial judge reduced that total to $5 million.
On appeal, the 2nd Appellate Division in Brooklyn said the jury wasn’t properly instructed that it could not punish Brown for damages to any smokers other than Frankson, as the plaintiff’s attorney mentioned “tens of thousands of deaths” in his summation.
“Absent a proper limiting instruction,” Justice Eng wrote, “the jury could have mistakenly understood the plaintiff’s argument that the defendants’ conduct resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people to justify taking those people’s deaths into account in calculating the amount of damages warranted to punish the defendants’ reprehensible conduct.”
Eng remanded the case for a new trial on the issue of punitive damages.