A record jury verdict against Big Tobacco raises questions about the industry's future

Even in this age of runaway jury verdicts, the punitive-damage awards that rang out in a hushed Miami courtroom last Friday were impressive. Against Philip Morris--$73.96 billion; R.J. Reynolds--$36.28 billion; Brown & Williamson--$17.59 billion; Lorillard--$16.25 million; Vector Group (owner of Liggett)--$790 million. By the time Circuit Court Judge Robert Kaye reached the bottom of the verdict sheet, the total had climbed to $144.8 billion. "A lot of zeros," the judge observed dryly.

It was, in fact, the most zeros ever. The record award, in favor of a class of some 500,000 Floridians made sick by smoking, took punitive damages to a...

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