Court Shock for US Tobacco Giants

14 May 2004

Florida's Supreme Court is to review a four year-old case which could lead to five cigarette companies paying damages totalling $145 billion (£82bn;€123bn).

In July 2000 anti-smoking campaigners successfully brought a lawsuit against the five, claiming damages on behalf of 700,000 Florida residents suffering from smoking related illnesses.

They argued the tobacco firms had failed to issue strong enough warnings about the health risks of smoking. The $145bn award was the biggest ever in the US.

The firms successfully appealed in May 2003 when the Florida Appeal Court ruled the damages in the original 'Eagle' case were excessive.

The five firms are: Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Loews unit Lorillard Tobacco, Brown & Williamson, owned by British American Tobacco, and Liggett, part of Vector Group.

A spokeswoman for RJ Reynolds said the company believed the appeals court had "ruled correctly". "We're hoping that the case will be resolved as soon as possible," she said.

The scope of the Florida Supreme Court's review remains unclear.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff