(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Judge Weinstein, of the federal court in Brooklyn, has apparently (according to this story in law.com) certified a class of all smokers (with some exceptions) solely for the purpose of determining how many zillions of dollars should be awarded in punitive damages against the tobacco industry and then divvying the money up among the class. This is proof to Industry of the old adage, "be careful what you ask for: you just might get it." For years we've been hearing from companies the complaint "this punitive damage system is a silly lottery in which some plaintiffs get a random jackpot, and it's even worse because we can get socked with punitive-award after punitive-award without any consideration of whether we've already been punished enough by prior awards!" Judge Weinstein's order nicely answers these two complaints: this class-action device will make sure that there are no lottery jackpots (i.e., nobody gets more than his or her reasonable share), and will make sure that the company is punished just the right amount once-and-for-all rather than over-punished through a series of awards. Does this mean that the companies will say "thank you, Judge Weinstein"? Don't hold your breath. Will the Court of Appeals affirm Judge Weinstein's order? Again, don't hold your breath.

posted by sam 6:55 AM 0 comments


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