Skip Nav
Real Weddings
The Groom's Tearful Reaction to Seeing His Bride Is the Absolute Sweetest
This Couple Showed Their Love For Travel With the Cutest Airport Engagement Shoot
The Telling Sign You're in a Toxic Relationship and Need to Get Out Now

Smoker's Widow Gets $8 Million in Damages — Fair?

Smoker's Widow Gets $8 Million in Damages — Fair?

Six jurors just made a Florida widow $8 million richer. In 1997 Elaine Hess's husband died of lung cancer at the age of 55. Philip Morris must now pay $3 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages for the death of the chain smoker who began smoking at 15.

The plaintiff presented a 1994 video of tobacco executives testifying to Congress that smoking was not addictive, as evidence in the case.

This is the first smoker vs. tobacco company case in Florida since pediatrician Dr. Howard Engle won a class action lawsuit and a $145 billion settlement because he couldn't quit. The award was overruled, but the state supreme court upheld the decision that tobacco companies knowingly sold dangerous products and hid the risks from the public. The court said smokers had to sue individually. Now that Hess was successful, approximately 8,000 other smokers will likely sue.


Join The Conversation
death-by-chocolat death-by-chocolat 8 years
Um, actually it appears the "deceased" in question was a LOCKSMITH, not a DOCTOR. ( Not that it particularly matters his profession, but right- he wasn't a doctor.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
My father died of lung Cancer in 1976 he was 38 years old and had smoked since he was a teenager....can i sue now? for that loss?
Witchy-Ways Witchy-Ways 8 years
No, I don't think it's fair. People make choices. After all, they're adults and are responsible for their own actions. Why should the cigarette industry be held responsible for when you light up? Please.
ohLilibet ohLilibet 8 years
hausfrau I love you!
janneth janneth 8 years
So what if he was a doctor? It's addiction. It does not care what your profession is. A doctor is wired the same as all other humans. He should have known better...ha.
brookrene brookrene 8 years
I just think paying this lady is ridiculous. This man could easily have quit. I stopped smoking cold turkey after several years of doing it. You have to have willpower and determination which obviously this man didn't. He didn't care about his life at all. My mother smokes, has for a verrry long time. It makes me so mad that she could die from this, but will I sue big tobacco? No way! I'm not dumb, I know it was my mother who made the choice to smoke. Besides, even if I was stupid enough to sue the tobacco companies, it's just not morally right. I like to think of myself as a pretty moral person.
stephley stephley 8 years
As long as tobacco companies continue to repeat the claims detailed in this House Report, I say yeah, pay 8-million to the families of every smoker who dies. 8-million is a slap on the wrist for lying about a dangerous product - remember, the smoker gets death for their role in the game. If you think the tobacco companies are telling the truth, then why is the poor smoker penalized? Tobacco Industry Statements in the Department of Justice Lawsuit ____________________________________________________________ Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman Minority Staff Report Special Investigations Division Committee on Government Reform U.S. House of Representatives September 17, 2002 Table of Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I. BACKGROUND II. METHODOLOGY III. RESULTS A. Four of Five Tobacco Companies Still Question Whether Smoking Causes Disease B. Five of Five Tobacco Companies Deny Environmental Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease C. Four of Five Tobacco Companies Fail to Admit That Nicotine Is Addictive D. Individual Companies Continue to Deny Specific Corporate Behaviors 1. Philip Morris Continues to Deny It Has Control Over Nicotine 2. R.J. Reynolds Continues to Deny It Has Marketed to Children 3. British American Tobacco Continues to Deny Document Destruction IV. CONCLUSION ADDENDUM
genesisrocks genesisrocks 8 years
OMG are they going to have to pay that to everyone who's spouse dies from smoking? It's just like the whole McDonalds made me fat thing. You know what you're getting into.
patiwroblewski patiwroblewski 8 years
i think 8 million is not even enough. (it wouldnt be enough for my grandparents, or other older relatives). when he started smoking 40 (or so ) years ago it was not known that smoking would skill eventually. however if someone started smoking these days knowing the consequences of it i would not give them a penny. but i still believe that cigarettes should be banned
Myst Myst 8 years
mydia, I can understand if this case was to happen in 1956 during the time when tobacco companies knowingly lied about their products. However even then, there had been reports since the late 1800s about the dangers of tobacco and what it does to your body. This case was originially filed in 1997 and the the widow just won the case. This man and his family knew fully well that he was endangering himself during the whole time that he was smoking and as a doctor he knew better then the average person how addictive nicotine is and what the tar and other products that goes in a cigarette does so he never should have filed. We shouldn't reward people for their own stupidity
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
Yes, that's how our judicial system works in civil cases. The jury awards the damage amount (punitive and compensatory). Here is an article about the case if you want to actually understand the details: A chain smoker who died of lung cancer is more to blame for his habit than tobacco companies, but Philip Morris should pay $8m (£5.6m) to the man's widow and son for concealling the dangers of cigarettes, a Broward county, Florida jury ordered yesterday in a landmark case. Its ruling in the lawsuit brought by Elaine Hess of Cooper City could foreshadow the outcome of 8,000 similar suits waiting to be tried across Florida. If so, anti-smoking advocates said they would be delighted to see Big Tobacco held accountable time and again for its negligence. "This jury was able to look at the full picture, which includes really the reprehensible misconduct by the tobacco companies," said Edward L Sweda Jr, senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University law school in Boston. "What they clearly did was reject Philip Morris' blame-the-smoker-for-smoking defence. Certainly this is an encouraging event today and certainly a good sign for the cases to come." The jury rejected Elaine Hess' demand for more than $130m and found her husband, Stuart Hess, bore 58% of the blame for the damage he did to his health. Stuart Hess, a chain smoker of up to three packs a day, died in 1997 at age 55. Elaine Hess, and son, David, sued Philip Morris, makers of the Benson & Hedges cigarettes that Stuart Hess puffed on for more than 40 years, saying he bought into the company's decades of deceit, downplaying health risks to promote sales of their deadly products. The case was never about the money, widow Elaine Hess, 63, said. "Nothing can make up for the loss," she said. Richmond, Virginia-based Philip Morris USA has vowed to appeal the verdict. This is the first of about 8,000 individual lawsuits to go to trial since the Florida supreme court in 2006 threw out a record $145bn class-action jury award. Though the court tossed out the award, it upheld the jury's conclusions that tobacco companies misrepresented the addictive nature and concealed the health dangers of cigarettes. Cigarette makers, lawyers and other Florida smokers and survivors who have filed similar suits eyed the Hess case as an indicator as to how other cases might turn out. However, Philip Morris said other cases might be unlikely to prevail with jurors. "We do not believe today's verdict is predictive of outcomes in future cases," Murray Garnick, vice-president and associate general counsel for Altria Client Services said on behalf of Philip Morris in a statement yesterday. "This case was selected by plantiffs' lawyers from among thousands of others to be the first tried presumably because they believed it was their best case."
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
but does the jury award the amount? I'm curious. Would all of them approve of the actual amount, or did they just determine that the tobacco company was liable for damages, I wonder?
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
All I'm saying is that this guy's family has a right to pursue the lawsuit and the jury always has the ability to find for the defense if the evidence isn't there.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
no the familiy isn't getting a reward, not at all.... 8 million dollars is chump change. :oy: If she were giving the money away to help other families of sick smokers, that would be different, but she isn't she is keeping the money for herself and that is a huge reward.
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
This lawsuit isn't rewarding the smoker (or their family) its punishing the tobacco companies. And the more I think about it the more I agree with Janneth and what she said. Its the lying and deceit that's the problem here. If someone ate some of that contaminated peanut butter and died is it there fault or the company? I know its not exactly the same, given what hypo said before and I agree with they kind of established that it is mainstream knowledge that cigarettes cause cancer since 1982, but its kind of the same principle. If a corporation lies about safety they can be taken to court. Or better example, the Dow plant in Michigan. Those workers knew they were working in a chemical plant, so did they deserve to get sick?
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
See, adding that he was a doctor makes it much worse for his case, in my opinion. He is highly educated, not just that, but highly educated in the workings of the body. If the waitress at the truck stop quits because she knows it is hurting her and this guy can't.....
Myst Myst 8 years
There's a vital piece of information that CitizenSugar forgot to mention about this lawsuit. The man was a doctor. He knew full well the dangers of smoking and the dangers that was involved. Look at the end of the day, Phillip Morris and all other companies provide a product. Now there's warning labels about this product and this man who was relatively young when he passed and had been a doctor knew exactly what he was doing. Yes he got an addiction but addictions are just that. Addictions. and Smoking is an addiction that just about everyone can overcome. I know women who stop smoking once they learn they are pregnant. And as a result of previous lawsuits, it's Phillip Morris and all other tobacco companies are required to provide help to smokers, such as QuitAssist.Com. There are many ways for a person to quit and I'm sorry but we shouldn't reward people for making the choice to put something poisonous in their body, especially about the Surgeon General had put warnings out and enforced these companies to put warning labels on their packages.
stephley stephley 8 years
Yea Janneth.
janneth janneth 8 years
It's the deceit. The meetings where they strategized their way out of the medical reports.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
Janneth, that's a slippery slope. What about alcohol, pharm., junk food, etc, companies?
janneth janneth 8 years
Just as I was about to vote NO, I changed my mind. Shut those lying corporations down, bankrupt them. You can't mess with life and death, just for profits.
StolzeMama StolzeMama 8 years
My mom is 53, she has smoked since she was 15, beyond all of my families urges for her to quit. So if she dies of cancer, I can sue and win millions?
mydiadem mydiadem 8 years
I agree with you hypo, and that's what the appeal will try to argue from what I read. Most likely the award will reduce based on your exact points.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
I totally agree with you Mydia re: comment 52
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
I think there should be some statute of limitation as far a date. When her husband started smoking at the age of 15 it was all the rage the thing to do. However, there was a point in time when that information changed and the negative effects of smoking became main stream. In other words there was a point were people no longer had an excuse to play stupid when it came to starting smoking and becoming addicted and that should be reflected in their reward if they get any.
Funny #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling Tweets
Zumba Plank Jack Challenge
Cecil the Lion's Son Dead
Chelsea Manning Nightline Interview on Being Transgender
From Our Partners
Latest Love
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds