Philip Morris Fights $3B Verdict
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Philip Morris attorneys urged a judge Monday to slash a $3 billion punitive damage award to a cancer-stricken smoker and to grant a retrial.
The arguments opened the tobacco giant’s two-pronged attack on a June 6 decision by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury that awarded Richard Boeken, 56, compensatory damages of $5.5 million and $3 billion in punitive damages.
The verdict was the largest in an individual lawsuit against a tobacco company.
Boeken, a smoker for 40 years, has lung cancer. The former oil and securities dealer claimed in his lawsuit against Philip Morris that he was the victim of a tobacco industry campaign that portrayed smoking as ``cool,″ but concealed its dangers.
Philip Morris’ attorneys urged Judge Charles W. McCoy to reduce the punitive damages to no more than $25 million.
The lawyers also argued that Philip Morris should be granted a new trial because McCoy refused to allow the company to present evidence of Boeken’s past criminal convictions, information the jury might have used to decide his credibility.
Boeken had two felony convictions during the 1970s _ one involving stolen property and one for possession of a small amount of heroin. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of aiding and abetting wire fraud. The case involved a telephone boiler room operation that sold oil and gas properties from 1986 to 1988 in Wyoming.
Prosecutors said the business took in about $2.1 million from more than 180 investors. Boeken testified for the government in the prosecution of his former boss, pleaded guilty to the felony and was ordered to pay a fine and $50,000 in restitution.