Judge Reduces Philip Morris Penalty

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Judge Reduces Philip Morris Penalty

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A judge yesterday reduced a landmark $150-million punitive award against Philip Morris to $100 million, saying the original amount was "grossly excessive."

Judge Roosevelt Robinson's ruling came six weeks after a jury ordered the tobacco company to pay $150 million in punitive damages to the estate of Michelle Schwarz, who died of lung cancer in 1999 at age 53.

Philip Morris said in a statement it "will mount a vigorous appeal" in hopes of overturning the entire award.

In March, the jury agreed with the family's claim that Philip Morris falsely represented low-tar cigarettes as less dangerous than regular cigarettes. Besides the punitive award, the jury awarded $168,000 in compensatory damages to Schwarz's family, the Associated Press reported.

It was the first verdict in a case based on allegations that low-tar cigarettes are just as dangerous as regular ones. The tobacco company appealed, arguing the $150-million verdict "exceeds the amount necessary to punish and deter Philip Morris from the misconduct that the jury found."

In his ruling, Robinson said the new damage amount was "consistent with the attitude of the jury and it's still a whole lot of money."