Tobacco company considers a $13.8 million dollar punitive damages verdict a victory
Today, August 25, 2009, a Los Angeles jury awarded Jodie Bullock, daughter of Betty Bullock $13.8 million dollars in punitive damages for the death of her mother from cigarettes.
Her mother, Betty Bullock was awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages and $28 billion in punitive damages in 2002 in a landmark decision in California. She died a year later. An appellate court threw out the decision based on changes made by the conservative Bush U.S. Supreme Court in the law of punitive damages.
Another blow to the Bullock family is that when a person dies in California before their lawsuit is finalized, the value of the case decreases significantly as certain categories of damages die with the person. This has resulted in a macabre game where enormous teams of defense firm law lawyers fight with all they have to stall cases until a person dies.
Persons with lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking cannot file class actions in California, and are also faced with numerous other legal restrictions on their lawsuits. Tobacco claimants face years in court on appeal, as nearly every single judgment and verdict is appealed for many years by the cigarette makers.
For more on this verdict and the many years of litigation on this single case, click on the following links:
http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/revpub/B164398.PDF (interim appellate court ruling)
http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/lxn05a00 (trial testimony of Betty Bullock)