A Florida appeals has court ordered a retrial for damages in the case of a wrongful death award against a cigarette maker.
The 1st District Court of Appeal in Escambia County ruled that the family of a dead smoker was entitled to a new trial to assess pain-and-suffering damages against a cigarette maker. Norman Lamar Danielson of Cantonment, FL died at 42 years of age after decades of smoking Marlboro cigarettes. Wrongful death attorneys filed suit on behalf of Danielson’s wife, Micah, against Philip Morris in 2007. She charged that the tobacco company concealed the dangers of cigarettes, including the fact smoking causes people to become addicted. She asked for $16 million in economic damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages.
Danielson’s attorney argued that nicotine is addictive and that Danielson died from smoking. In addition, he said that Philip Morris knew that cigarettes are dangerous and addictive, but hid that information from smokers.
Wrongful Death Award Retrial
Initially, a jury decided to grant a $25,000 wrongful death award in 2015. The award was for economic damages to the family, but no non-economic or “pain-and-suffering” damages. A judge later changed the economic award to $2.3 million, because that’s what the company had to agreed to earlier. The jury did not award any punitive damages.
The judge also ordered a new trial for the non-economic and the punitive parts of the awards.
Philip Morris appealed the judge’s decisions. The appeals court ruled against a new trial for punitive damages, but did order a new trial for non-economic damages. The court stated that Philip Morris improperly prejudiced the jury by that suggesting that Ms. Danielson should blamed for her husband’s smoking. Micah Danielson had a medical background. Finally, Philip Morris’s lawyers led the jury to believe that Micah Danielson was just trying to make money from her husband’s death.