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Court Reinstates Philip Morris Damages

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Philip Morris USA to reduce punitive damages awarded to a former smoker with lung cancer who won a landmark verdict against the tobacco giant, reported the Associated Press.

With a unanimous vote, the state's high court reinstated $10.5 million in damages to Patricia Henley, dismissing Philip Morris's appeal without comment. The company could seek further review in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In April, the court agreed to hear the company's appeal and decide whether the punitive damages went beyond limits set recently by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court's decision to review the case put Henley's damages award on hold.

Henley, who smoked for 35 years starting at age 15, was diagnosed in 1997 with lung cancer, which is now in remission. She sued Philip Morris, accusing the firm of getting young people addicted to cigarettes and concealing the dangers of smoking.

In 1999, a San Francisco jury awarded Henley $26.5 million, the first verdict against a tobacco company under a 1998 state law that allows individuals to sue for newly discovered smoking-related illnesses.

Last year, a state appeals court reduced the award to $10.5 million because of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling limiting punitive damages that greatly exceeded a plaintiff's actual damages. Philip Morris, a unit of New York-based Altria Group Inc., argued that the reduced award was still excessive.
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