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Author: Daniel Wise, New York Law Journal
A federal judge has ruled that New York's participation in the nationwide $208 billion settlement reached in 1998 between 46 states and the tobacco industry bars subsequent claims for punitive damages in smokers' damage actions in New York.
Southern District of New York Judge Charles L. Brieant in Mulholland v. Philip Morris, 05-9908, also rejected a design-defect theory that led to a $20 million verdict against two cigarette manufacturers in a separate 2005 state case. More than $17 million of that verdict stemmed from an award of punitive damages. . . .
In rejecting the Mulhollands' defective-design claim, Brieant refused to accept a theory that was the sole basis for the $20.5 million award in 2005 against Philip Morris and the American Tobacco Co., which has since merged with Brown & Williamson. An appeal of the verdict in the New York County case of Rose v. Philip Morris, 101996/02, is currently before the Appellate Division, 1st Department.
Brieant rejected the defective-design claim, finding that there was no feasible alternative to Marlboros because the other safer alternatives that had been offered by the Mulhollands' expert had been rejected by the marketplace.
The "reduced carcinogen" and "nonaddictive" cigarettes cited as safer alternatives by the Mulhollands' expert were "indisputably rejected by consumers," Brieant wrote.
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