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Oregon Wrongful Death Case Goes to Supreme Court

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A wrongful death case against Philip Morris USA that was upheld in the Oregon Supreme Court earlier in 2006 will go to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.

The case involved the family of Jesse D. Williams, who died of lung cancer in 1997 after smoking cigarettes since the 1950s. Williams was a janitor and smoked three packs of Marlboros a day. An Oregon jury awarded the Williams family $80 million, and the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the ruling, saying that it was not an excessive amount due to the Philip Morris company’s “extraordinarily reprehensible” conduct in marketing cigarettes.

In the Oregon Supreme Court ruling, the court stated that Philip Morris,

knew that smoking caused serious and sometimes fatal disease, but it nevertheless spread false or misleading information to suggest to the public that doubts remained about the issue.

This case will give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to clarify their ruling in 2003 regarding an insurance case that set guidelines for deciding punitive damage amounts.