NASHVILLE, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Attorney Kenneth Byrd of the Nashville office of national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, joined by co-counsel Lance Oliver of Motley Rice LLC, announced that a jury in federal court in Florida this week returned a verdict of $27,010,000.14 against Philip Morris USA Inc. In 1958, plaintiff Judith Berger started smoking when she was 14 years old and began smoking a pack a day by age 16. At the trial, evidence was introduced showing that 90 percent of daily cigarette smokers start smoking as teenagers and that the tobacco industry targeted youth for this very reason. The $27 million verdict included a punitive damages award of 20,760,000 dollars and 14 cents.
Kenny Byrd, lead trial counsel for Mrs. Berger, said, “We are pleased that the jury held Philip Morris accountable for their calculated choice to target children, such as Mrs. Berger, to take up smoking.”
The jury heard evidence that the earlier one takes up smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted and the stronger that addiction. “The addition of 14 cents is just as meaningful as the $20 million before it,” stated Mr. Byrd. “The jury understood our society should protect 14 year olds, not target them for profits as the cigarette industry does.” The jury was able to see, among other documents, a Philip Morris internal memo that stated “today’s teenager is tomorrow’s regular customer.”
“I am so grateful that the jury held Philip Morris accountable for its actions over the past 60 years,” stated Mrs. Berger, who has developed severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from smoking. “Before this lawsuit I had no idea that the tobacco industry deliberately designed cigarettes to make them addictive and then conspired to lie to the public about their deadly effects. I fought this battle in part for my twin sister Josephine - may she rest in peace - who died from the same disease that will take my life in the next few years. I encourage anyone whose rights are violated by Philip Morris - or any corporation - to stand up, fight for justice and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Mrs. Berger smoked cigarettes that were marketed as safer -- filter cigarettes and then light cigarettes – doing just as Philip Morris’ marketing sought to convince Mrs. Berger and other smokers to do. The truth is that light cigarettes were no safer, and the evidence showed Philip Morris officials knew that.
"At trial Philip Morris attempted to lay all the blame on Mrs. Berger for choices she made as a kid. Thankfully the jury saw through this and held Philip Morris accountable for its choices," stated Mr. Oliver. “The verdict is significant for Mrs. Berger as well as the hundreds and hundreds of other Florida residents and families who have been harmed by the same conduct and are still awaiting their day in court."
At the trial, Mr. Byrd served as lead counsel and was joined by Mr. Oliver and Lieff Cabraser attorney John Spragens. The case is entitled Judith Berger v. R.J. Reynolds, et. al, Case No. 3:09-CV-14157. Mr. Byrd and Mr. Spragens are licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Mr. Oliver is licensed to practice law in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.
This press release may be considered advertising in certain jurisdictions. Any testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Every legal matter is different. The outcome of your claim or case depends upon many factors, including the specific facts of your claim or case. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. The jury verdict stated above is not the net amount of the recovery for the plaintiff as a judgment has not been entered and the amount is before attorneys fees and costs, and any third party fees and costs, are deducted.