The Supreme Court threw out a $79.5 million punitive damages award to a smoker’s widow Tuesday, a boon to businesses seeking stricter limits on big-dollar jury verdicts.
I see this as not only a restriction on courts awarding absurd amounts of money, but as reason to start thinking about personal responsibility.
In the majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court said the verdict could not stand because the jury in the case was not instructed that it could punish Philip Morris only for the harm done to the plaintiff, not to other smokers whose cases were not before it.
Anyone who smokes, or has smoked in the past knows it’s not a healthy thing to do. It’s a choice, and if you die from the effects, sorry, but it’s not the business, or the government, or the courts to award your family for YOUR decisions.
She argued the jury award was appropriate because it punishes Philip Morris’ misconduct for a decades-long “massive market-directed fraud” that misled people into thinking cigarettes were not dangerous or addictive.
Drinking Pepsi is addictive too, and it can make you fat, which in turn can cause health problems. Should Pepsi pay for your lack of will power? I don’t think so! Any more than tobacco companies should pay. Now, if they were adding arsenic, I might think a bit differently.
Here’s a surprise: I smoke! 🙂 If my daughter, granddaughters, or even my husband, tried to sue the tobacco company for what I did to myself (assuming I’m going to croak from some smoking related cause, and not a moron on the highway), I’d come back and haunt them. I’d find some way to make their lives totally miserable. My decision, my responsibility!