[Homestead] Put Big Tobacco out of business, compensate ALL victims

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 14 22:02:40 EDT 2004



As a former builder, owner, operator of a small cigarette factory, I 
support ending this mass-murder business---remember the scumbag CEO at a 
Congressional Hearing, saying cigarettes were no more addictive than his 
"Gummy Bears"---got away with it too, should have gone to prison a 
long,long, long time for perjury.

It is enormously profitable---our little factory with a tiny $55,000 
capital, after ninety days, net-netted $1500 per day, $97,500 per year 
(it ran seven days a week, no holidays)---and prior State-prosecuted 
lawsuits on the damages caused to State health compensation programs, 
envisioned letting the cigarette factories keep running to generate 
funds to pay the fines.  Bad idea---killing more thousands to partially 
compensate the States for killing millions at 450,000 per year.  You 
have to stop sometime---cut the losses incurred by millions of lost lives.

Our business was stolen at gunpoint by Colonel Claude Raymond, nephew of 
Papa Doc Duvalier. Raymond killed one of our two plant mechanics, Sonny 
Borge for warning my Ft Lauderdale partner Raymond was going to murder 
him ater 11:00 PM, giving him time to take refuge in the Canadian 
Embassy---the U.S. Embassy refused him refuge, saying "We didn't invite 
you here.".

 When Baby Doc ran like a rabbit we were offered the factory back 
again---we declined.  By that time Big Tobacco had educated us in the 
lethal consequences of smoking.  I like money, but not that much.

We were very small, knew tobacco was bad, but did not know it was 
lethal---only the big tobacco companies with their huge research budget 
knew that---and hid all evidence of their knowledge from the whole world 
except Big Tobacco insiders..

The buyout of tobacco farmers continues apace, don't have to worry about 
their fate, but unless stopped the tobacco factories will stay in 
business on imported tobacco---as they mostly do anyhow, it is so much 
cheaper than U.S. leaf tobacco.

Time to kill the cigarette factories and get it over with---try to pay 
all the victims who died or got emphysema, cancer on some equitable 
basis---individual suits agains mass-murder don't work very well---first 
there have been no big payouts, the enormous legal staffs of Big  
Tobacco appeal, appeal, appeal, and only a handful of Plaintiff Law 
Firms have the deep pockets and gambling instinct to sue  Philip Morris, 
R.J. Reynolds, et. al. in the first place.


The New York Times
------------------------------------------------------------------------


         September 14, 2004


   U.S. Court Considers a Once-and-for-All Tobacco Lawsuit

*By WILLIAM GLABERSON*

The federal appeals court in New York is considering a case that could 
radically reshape the national legal battle over the health effects of 
cigarettes and could set the stage for the largest verdict ever against 
the tobacco industry.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second 
Circuit is reviewing a novel and sharply controversial decision by a 
federal judge in Brooklyn, who ruled two years ago in a class-action 
suit that he would subject tobacco companies to a single national trial 
that would determine once and for all whether the companies should be 
assessed punitive damages for concealing the health hazards of smoking.

The judge, Jack B. Weinstein of United States District Court, said he 
would preside over a huge trial that would not evaluate individual 
claims for compensation, but would decide only whether the country's 
tobacco companies should be assessed punitive damages because of the 
harm done to millions of smokers and their survivors.

Saying "the time for bringing a close to tobacco litigation is nigh," 
Judge Weinstein said in court that his trial could bring a resolution of 
the tobacco legal wars that have inched along in the courts for decades. 
The trial he proposes, he said, "would be the end of punitive damages in 
Tobaccoland."

Verdicts assessing millions and sometimes billions of dollars in 
punitive damages, which are meant to punish and deter wrongdoing, have 
been the focus of furious complaints by industries in recent years and 
several critical rulings by the United States Supreme Court.

But lawyers with experience in tobacco cases say a national trial to 
determine punitive damages involving the claims of millions of smokers 
could invite jurors to hand down a verdict of unprecedented size. In a 
case involving claims by smokers in Florida alone, a jury in 2000 
awarded $145 billion in punitive damages to the plaintiffs. The award 
was overturned by an intermediate appeals court, and the appeal process 
is continuing.

Though the Brooklyn case has attracted little public notice, it has 
drawn wide attention among corporations nationwide because of the impact 
it may have on damage suits against many other industries. Many groups, 
including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of 
Manufacturers, have submitted written arguments opposing the trial.

The case has spawned articles and debate among legal experts because of 
its central suggestion that in some cases where mass injuries are 
involved, the legal system's reliance on individual suits is inadequate. 
Judge Weinstein said fairness required that no plaintiff wins a huge 
award that bankrupts a company and leaves little for thousands of other 
injured people.

Punitive damages recovered from the companies, Judge Weinstein said in 
his ruling, could be distributed to ailing smokers and deceased smokers' 
families and used for treatment, research and antismoking activities.

Judge Weinstein's proposal "is a very novel idea that is untested in the 
law," said Catherine M. Sharkey, a Columbia University law professor who 
is a specialist in punitive-damage issues.

The case began in 1999 as a more traditional class-action suit, filed by 
lung cancer victims seeking compensation from tobacco companies. But 
after Judge Weinstein suggested in court that the case could be 
restructured to deal with tobacco issues in a much broader way, the 
plaintiffs' lawyers filed a new suit in 2000, asking for the 
once-and-for-all determination of punitive damages.

Under his order, individual smokers and their survivors could still sue 
for compensation for lost income or health care costs. But the trial 
would foreclose claims for punitive damages by all smokers who received 
a diagnosis of any of 16 smoking-related diseases, including cancer and 
heart disease, between 1993 and the start of the trial.

The appeals court heard oral arguments last November. In filings to the 
appeals court, the tobacco companies labeled the ruling a breathtaking, 
arbitrary, baseless analysis that ignored Supreme Court rulings. 
Theodore M. Grossman, the lawyer who argued the appeal for the tobacco 
industry, said in an interview last week that Judge Weinstein was trying 
to undo a centuries-old adversary system of case-by-case justice.

"He is a very bright man," Mr. Grossman said, "who has a very clearly 
stated agenda that is inconsistent with what appellate courts and courts 
across the country have said is required by the Constitution."

But Samuel Issacharoff, a visiting professor at New York University Law 
School who is working with the plaintiffs' lawyers in the tobacco case, 
called the judge's approach a bold and creative effort to deal with 
issues that have troubled American courts in mass-liability cases for 
decades.

Defective products can have widespread effects that the legal system has 
difficulty handling, said Professor Issacharoff, an expert on 
mass-injury cases. Among the most difficult questions for courts, he 
said, are those Judge Weinstein is grappling with, like how to calculate 
ways of punishing corporate misconduct that has affected millions of 
people.

"It's hard to think of a more important issue in civil litigation 
today," Professor Issacharoff said.

Whatever the Manhattan appeals court decides, lawyers say, it seems 
likely that the United States Supreme Court will be asked to review the 
case before any trial begins.

The appeal of Judge Weinstein's decision has exposed alliances often 
unseen in large liability battles. The trade group for plaintiffs' 
lawyers, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, filed a brief 
backing the position of the tobacco companies, as did the American 
Cancer Society.

An association lawyer, Robert S. Peck, said the trial lawyers were 
concerned that no smoker could seek punitive damages individually. He 
said his group viewed that as an unfair limitation on victims' rights, 
and could recall no other case in which the association had sided with 
an industry against plaintiffs seeking damages.

Richard A. Daynard, chairman of the Tobacco Products Liability Project 
at Northeastern University, which works to foster lawsuits against the 
industry, also signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief urging the 
appeals court to reject Judge Weinstein's approach.

Professor Daynard, a harsh critic of the tobacco industry, said in an 
interview that one concern with Judge Weinstein's proposal was the 
enormous risk to tobacco critics.

Tobacco lawyers are known for fighting cases relentlessly. One case in 
Brooklyn, no matter how big, he said, might not end with the gargantuan 
punitive-damage award for which critics of the industry have long been 
hoping.

"The problem with it," Professor Daynard said, "is it's putting all the 
eggs in terms of possible litigation against the industry in one b




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