The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that Philip Morris does not have to pay $100 million in punitive damages to the family of a smoker who sued the tobacco giant over its low-tar cigarettes.
The case, however, is going to another jury to decide just how much the death of Michelle Schwarz from lung cancer in 1999 will cost Philip Morris — and legal experts say it could easily be another big award.
A Multnomah County jury in Portland originally awarded the Schwarz family $150 million in March 2002 before the trial judge reduced it to $100 million.
On Thursday, the Oregon Supreme Court vacated the $100 million award and sent the case back to the trial court to reconsider the punitive damages after ruling the judge failed to properly instruct the jury.
The court said the judge should have told the jury it could not punish Philip Morris directly for harm caused to others besides Schwarz.
But the court also supported the trial judge, who had rejected jury instructions the tobacco company had requested.