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January 27th, 2012:

RJ Reynolds And Phillip Morris To Pay US$2.5 Million In Damages

Posted by David Siegel on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 @ 04:26 PM

SEBRING, FL – The first major tobacco lawsuit of 2012 ended yesterday with RJ Reynolds (NYSE: RAI) and Philip Morris (NYSE: PM) being ordered to pay a combined US$2.5 million in damages to a deceased smoker’s surviving husband.

Following nearly three-weeks of trial testimony a Highlands County jury found the two tobacco companies responsible for the smoking-related lung cancer of Theo Hallgren’s late wife, Claire Hallgren.

After determining Claire Hallgren was 50% responsible for her addiction and awarding $2 million to Theo Hallgren in compensatory damages, the jury went on to order RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris to pay $750,000 each in punitive damages.

Hallgren’s lawsuit was originally part of the 2006 “Engle” class-action case, which resulted in a historic $145 billion dollar verdict. The tobacco companies appealed, and the Florida Supreme Court later ruled each case must be tried individual. Hallgren’s trial was the first of dozens scheduled across Florida state courts in 2012 with thousands of other cases still awaiting trial dates.

During closing arguments attorney T. Hardee Bass, of the firm Searcy Denny, told jurors in light of the tobacco company’s current billion-dollar profits, they needed to send a strong message with a large verdict. “That’s what this morning is about, punishment,” said Bass. “Punishment for the harm they caused to Claire Hallgren.”

Representing Philip Morris, attorney William Geraghty of Shook Hardy Bacon told the jury the company had made massive, systemic changes since the 1950’s, when tobacco products were marketed more aggressively. FDA regulation and Philip Morris’ own practices meant they had already taken enough corrective action. Dal Burton of Womble Carlyle, representing RJ Reynolds, said his client had also eliminated practices from the “1930’s and 40’s that are today an anathema.”

Attorneys for Hallgren asked the jury for $19 million in damages, and the reduced verdict represents recent success tobacco company defendants have had in limiting punitive damages amounts after much larger verdicts in earlier Engle trials.

Engle trials are scheduled throughout 2012 across the state of Florida. Another is currently underway in Miami, with at least three more trials set to begin next month. Courtroom View Network covered the Hallgren trial gavel to gavel, as it has for nearly all Engle tobacco trials to date.

The case is Theo Hallgren, for the estate of Claire Hallgren v. Philip Morris USA, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 10-761 in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.

‘Sell tobacco shares’ Nottinghamshire County Council urged

BBC – Jan 27, 2012

Description: Nottinghamshire County Council

Shares in tobacco firms amounted to 1% of pension fund investments, the authority said

Nottinghamshire County Council’s £36m investment in tobacco firms as part of its pension scheme has been criticised by a doctor.

Dr Greg Place, chairman of a committee which represents GPs in the county, said the authority should “publicly disinvest”.

He said supporting the industry and promoting health were incompatible.

The council said the amount was 1% of all its investments and it had a duty to get the best return for its members.

‘Justifying smoking’

Dr Place, chairman of the Nottinghamshire Local Medical Committee, said: “Smoking related disease is a big problem.

“I was very surprised to hear a major local player is basically investing in tobacco companies and to some extent justifying smoking.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

Description: Dr Gregory Place

The council need to be honest about the fact that they have made a mistake”

Dr Greg Place

“Nottinghamshire County Council should disinvest and send a firm message out about why it is doing so,” said the Annesley Woodhouse GP.

The pension fund has investments in British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris International and Altria Group.

As well as the council’s own employees, the pension fund looks after the pensions of Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Trent University, which runs a cancer research centre at its Clifton Campus.

Councillor Michael Cox, chairman of the Nottinghamshire Pension Committee, said: “The Nottinghamshire Pension Fund has over 110 contributing employers.

“Although the county council invests and manages the fund on behalf of these organisations, the fund is separate to the authority’s other activities.

“The fund has a diverse range of investments, including shares, property, bonds and cash and does not screen stocks when making its investments but will take account of environmental, social and governance issues where these are likely to have an impact on returns.”

In 2013 formal promotion of public health in England and Wales will be transferred to local authorities from the NHS.

One of the health targets of local councils will be to reduce the nation’s smoking rates.

“The council needs to be honest about the fact that they have made a mistake because smoking is bad for you,” Dr Place said.

BBC © 2012