Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The California Court of Appeals recently issued its decision in Bullock v. Philip Morris USA, where the jury originally awarded a land-mark $28 billion (yes - billion with a "B") punitive damages award against Philip Morris. The trial court reduced the award to $28 million, and the case has gone up and down the California appellate system in light of State Farm and now Williams.
In the latest opinion [pdf], the California Court of Appeals reversed the punitive damages judgment based on the trial court's refusal to give the company's proposed instructions. The first instruction stated "You are not to impose punishment for harms suffered by persons other than the plaintiff before you." The second instruction stated "You are not to punish defendant for the impact of its conduct on individuals in other states or other countries." The court noted that "Philip Morris had no duty to qualify its proposed instruction in order to encompass a rule of law favorable to [plaintiff] concerning the permissible use of evidence of harm caused to others." The court has ordered a new trial on the amount of punitive damages.