Anne Passino


In Philip Morris USA v. Williams,1 the United States Supreme Court examined the constitutional propriety of a large punitive damages award levied against a defendant tobacco company in favor of a single plaintiff. A jury had awarded $821,000 in compensatory damages and $79.5 million in punitive damages to the widow of a heavy cigarette smoker for her husband's smoking-related death because the tobacco company knowingly and falsely promoted smoking as safe. The Court held that permitting a jury to base any part of a punitive damages award upon a desire to punish the defendant for harming non-parties amounted to a taking of "property" from the defendant in contravention to the Constitution's Due Process Clause.

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