A Florida state court judge, Jeffrey Streitfeld, has decided that the largest individual award to a former smoker is excessive. The Daily Business Review (gavel bang: ABA Journal) reports on the good news for tobacco peddler Philip Morris:
Calling the $300 million jury verdict “excessive” and “shocking,” Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld said he would determine a lower award later against tobacco giant Philip Morris USA. He gave no indication when he would rule.
The landmark verdict was reached in November for Cindy Naugle, an emphysema patient who quit smoking in 1993.
There are few things that bother me more than smokers blaming tobacco companies for becoming addicted to their products. Does Philip Morris sell an illegal product? No. Do you need to be galactically stupid to smoke yet not know that smoking is dangerous? Yes. So what is the rationale for suing a company that produces a legal product you’d have to be epically dumb to not know is potentially dangerous?
As a smoker, I feel particularly qualified to say: it’s not Philip Morris’s fault if I get sick. It’s my fault. I take personal responsibility for my own health choices.
Personal responsibility. Seems like a winning argument, doesn’t it? Well, it’s pretty much the argument pursued by Philip Morris’s lawyers. And … it horribly backfired.
Judge Streitfeld has decided to step in to correct the lawyers’ mistake.
Kirkland & Ellis is known for its powerful litigators and leading litigation department. Though Gibson Dunn was happy to knock Kirkland from its Amlaw “Litigation Department of the Year” throne this year.
Kirkland is suffering another big knock this week. Litigation co-chair David Bernick has developed a tobacco addiction. Here’s a quote from Bernick included in an official firm statement and in an internal memo sent around the firm yesterday (both available in full after the jump):
“I have spent my entire career at Kirkland & Ellis and I am proud to have contributed to the growth and success of one of the top law firms,” said David Bernick. “I will remain close to my many friends and colleagues at the Firm, but I look forward to pursuing new challenges during the next phase of my career with Philip Morris International.”
After 31 years at Kirkland, Bernick is leaving to become senior vice president and general counsel of Philip Morris International, and he’s going very far away. He’ll be relocating from New York to Switzerland.
Bernick is a powerhouse at Kirkland. He has a smoking résumé. His firm bio recounts victories for big pharma, nuclear weapons plants, breast implants, and tobacco….
If you live in NYC, you’re used to smoking being banned in almost every place of business; your law dates back to 2003. DC caught up in January of 2007. However, the pro-health laws have had a harder time down south where people get all hot and bothered when the government tries to tell ‘em what to do. Here in Tuscaloosa (‘Bama), the law bars smoking in restaurants before 10:00 pm. It’s a narrow victory for the non-smokers.
Professor Althouse posted today about the loophole in the Minnesota ban that allows smoking for “actors in theatrical performances.” Non-actors in Minnesota are trying to use the exception to get around their state’s ban.
We know we have readers all around the country. What’s the status of smoking in your town’s bars and restaurants? If there is a ban, is it enforced?
* It’s a sign of the times when smoking laws have a better chance than public urination laws in justifying Operation Homeless. Or, Berkeley officials can ask Giuliani what he really did to clean up Times Square. [San Francisco Chronicle]
* Does anyone remember the dystopian Strange Days? Let that be a warning. [Feminist Law Professors]
* That ice cream girl/boy better not lean against or press down on the scale though. [Signs On San Diego]
* Why? Because I love the ongoing Brooke/Tom feud/reconciliation bit, and because I find it amazing that someone who has always been and is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen inexplicably has absolutely no charm, warmth or grace. [AOL Entertainment]
* He’s a lightweight but he’s no lightweight. I’m rooting for this guy, because I’m a sucker (heh) for these kinds of inspirational stories. (If you’ve seen/read Friday Night Lights, you’ll know that one of the players went to Harvard before returning to Texas for law school and Odessa to practice.) [Yahoo! News]
* His world may have collapsed, but his lung won’t. [MSN]
* They probably weren’t staying together for the kids. [Judicial Reports (third item)]
* Some African-American college students are, in fact, just African. Another way to summarize this “finding” is that “Not All [insert color here] People Are the Same” (or, as many a clever columnist would no doubt call it, the “Barack Theory”). [Althouse]
* I’m not sure what constitutes innovation in law practice management, but I wouldn’t nominate Sullivan & Cromwell. [Adam Smith, Esq]
* No need for a state-funded “Inner Change Program.” After they get stabbed by a pick fashioned out of a bed spring and gang-raped in the shower, inmates usually turn to God of their own will. [ACSBlog]
* Be careful when deciding what to call your party on Sunday night. [Overlawyered]
* Pity the petty, Tommy Bahama-wearing victims of the defectively long and narrow armrests of Metro-North commuter trains. [New York Times]
* Dr. Daniel goes to prison after lubing up the Beverly Hills ladies… in a bad way. [Los Angeles Times]
* Small firms are great and all, but can they afford the luxury of a Holiday Extravaganza in the cafeteria? [Build a Solo Practice, LLC]
* A crime against the Christmas spirit? No, just a mom charging her kid with petty larceny. [The Smoking Gun via CrimLaw]
* Remember that ninth-grade health ed presentation on the dangers of smoking, with the gross photos of cancerous lungs? That is when the statute of limitations should start running. (The SOL in trans-fat cases, because it’s only a matter of days now, should run the day you realize you can’t see your penis anymore.) [Point of Law]
* If you’re going to ban junk food ads, then bring back the cigarette ads! Nothing is as glamorous as a hot girl/guy smoking languorously. I’m only half kidding. [The Guardian]
* It’s great that attorneys have lives outside the law, but these people are probably the type who refer to themselves (and by “themselves,” I mean each of their “personas”) in the third person. [ABA Journal eReport]
* Although still not legal for non-medical purposes, much to Woody Harrelson’s chagrin. [Hit & Run]
* I’d rather go naked than eat foie gras. (Wait, is that how it goes? Like Pamela, I’ll find any excuse to show off my glorious rack.) [New York Sun]
* Would it have been a crime if the motive had been a little head-start on Thanksgiving preparations? Not everyone can be Rachel Ray. (Thank the F*&king Lord.) [Rutland Herald]
* You can still smoke in your detached, single-family residence, where the only victims will be you and anyone else likely to live in a detached, single-family residence. Like your kids. [San Mateo Daily Journal]
* If I had received this book as a stocking stuffer when I was 12, I actually would be sad I didn’t get socks instead. Let’s wait for the movie, and then only if it is narrated by Morgan Freeman. He’s just so kind and knowing. If you don’t just love him, well then, there is something seriously wrong with you. [Lowering the Bar]
* But you’ll still be able to gamble and pay someone for sex. [KTNV]
* May we recommend a theatrical adaptation of this instead? Cute, but not offensive. (We think.) [Chicago Tribune]
* A federal judge in Detroit — Judge Anna Diggs Taylor (E.D. Mich.) — has struck down the NSA warrantless wiretapping program as unconstitutional. The Justice Department is appealing. [New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times]
* A federal judge in Washington, D.C. — Judge Gladys Kessler (D.D.C.) — has ruled against major cigarette manufacturers in the government’s racketeering suit against Big Tobacco. She imposed new restrictions on cigarette manufacturing (but didn’t go as far as the Justice Department would have liked). Federal judges sure are busy these days! [New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times]
* John M. Karr’s claim of involvement in JonBenet Ramsey’s murder: confession, or crazy talk? [New York Times]
* Merck loses the latest Vioxx trial, in federal court, and a prior Merck win in state court is tossed out by a judge. [Wall Street Journal]
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