Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of Law and President of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, Richard Daynard, published an op-ed in The Hill on December 6, 2022 laying out the importance of punitive damages in civil justice to protect public health.
The article references a billion dollar punitive damages verdict in a Massachusetts tobacco case from September in which PHAI’s Center for Public Health Litigation participated. The case involved a a wrongful death claim by the family of a woman who smoked Marlboro and Parliament cigarettes for many years and who was addicted to cigarette smoking as a teen. Barbara Fontaine died as a result of lung cancer at the age of 60.
The jury listened to 3 weeks of evidence of the culpability of Philip Morris, USA in Ms. Fontaine’s death including testimony from a historian, an addiction expert, and a lung cancer expert. Compensatory damages of $8 million were awarded by the Middlesex County, Massachusetts jury. The jury also learned about the enormous profits that Philip Morris USA derives from cigarette sales to this day and, in order to punish and deter its reprehensible conduct, issued a punitive damages verdict of $1 billion.
Daynard argues that such large punitive damages awards are needed where a corporation is so profitable in an enterprise that harms population health that a smaller award is simply as cost of doing business.
The Center for Public Health Litigation at PHAI returns to the courtroom for a wrongful death tobacco trial in Boston against Philip Morris as well as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in January.
Professor Daynard’s opinion piece can be accessed through this link.