1) The award is almost certainly unconsitutional and will be reversed on appeal.
2) Because the jury went so far beyond common sense and nailed them for such an exceedingly huge amount of cash, it will probably be ruled as an illegal attempt to make a moral statement against Big Tobacco in general rather than a mere assessment of punitive damages in a single case. The result? The punitive damage award will not merely be reduced, but thrown out entirely, with the plaintiffs not getting one thin dime.
3) In the unlikely event the awards are upheld on appeal, here's the most probable scenario: Companies declare bankruptcy. They become the property of the plaintiffs. Congratulations plaintiffs, you now are Big Tobacco! And if you try to close them down, you can expect to spend a number of years with your life pretty much over as millions of people, and their moneygrubbing lawyers, turn on you for actively working to destroy shareholder value! Have a nice day.
(All you really need to know is in the stock prices: Philip Morris got the biggest "hit" here, for $74 bil. The stock closed yesterday down a whopping 3 teenies.)
Of course, as you dig even deeper down, it all gets sillier and sillier. First of all, most of these companies have been working for years to separate their tobacco operations from the rest of the companies through spinoffs and the like. RJR, Philip Morris et al are still going to be around, and still be big huge Evil Capitalist Conglomerates, long after they've personally rolled their last stick of lung candy.
Secondly, keep in mind that most of what they did wrong occurred decades ago, not last week. Even if you hit the company, the people responsible for all this are all long since retired or dead, with the money they personally made all intact. You're just taking it out on their successors.
Lastly: It's safe to say that people today can't get through the day without having it pounded involuntarily into their brains that Tobacco is Bad. Yet people still smoke. So there's obviously more here, a lot more, than innocent people being blinded to reality by Evil Capitalist Conglomerates. The point's been made that Big Tobacco did bad things in the past, but the past is gone, and tobacco's still around. What are the activists going to do now?posted by aaron at 4:53 AM on July 15, 2000
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