West Virginia Jury Rejects Most Claims and Punitive Damages in Consolidated
RICHMOND, Va. -- May 15, 2013
A unanimous West Virginia jury today rejected all but one of the plaintiffs’
claims in a consolidated trial involving approximately 600 individual lawsuits
against the major tobacco companies. In reaching its decision, the jury also
rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for punitive damages. Today’s decision did not
establish any liability against any of the defendants or award any monetary
“We believe that the jury appropriately rejected the plaintiffs’ claims for
design defect, negligence, failure to warn, breach of warranty, and
concealment and refused to find that any of PM USA’s conduct warranted
punitive damages,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice
president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of Philip Morris
USA (PM USA). “The plaintiffs prevailed only on the narrow claim that
ventilated filter cigarettes between 1964 and July 1, 1969 should have
included instructions on how to properly use them.”
“Today’s decision may allow some individual plaintiffs to move forward with
their individual cases. However, only those individuals who smoked ventilated
filter cigarettes between 1964 and 1969 may pursue claims and those
individuals will be required to show a link between the failure to instruct
and their injuries. Although we disagree with the jury’s verdict on this
narrow claim, in the event that any plaintiff chooses to pursue this claim, PM
USA has strong defenses,” added Garnick.
The decision came in In re: Tobacco Litigation (Individual Personal Injury
Cases) in which approximately 600 West Virginia plaintiffs’ cases were tried
under a two-phase trial plan. Phase I was to determine so-called “common
issues” about whether all cigarettes are defective, whether the companies
acted negligently or concealed the danger of smoking, and whether the
companies’ conduct warranted punitive damages. In Phase II, individual
plaintiffs who choose to pursue their claims will be tried separately. Of the
600 consolidated cases, 346 are pending against PM USA.
This case was tried in the Circuit Court of Kanahwa County, West Virginia,
case number 00-C-5000.
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