Tuesday, July 22, 2014

...and a gold house and a rocket car.

I'm trying to write up a list of the names of people I wouldn't kill for $23,000,000,000, and I gotta tell you, gentle reader, I'm coming up empty-handed so far.

I'm glad I quit smoking when I did, because this is getting whack. The absolute irrationality of that jury verdict (and the way that irrationality passes without comment in the national media) should scare you. It ain't far from there to the tumbrels.


Joseph said...

It helps if you say the number like Dr. Evil.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Sheer insanity that only points up either the dire need to reform the tort system, or the dire need to off a whole bunch of ambulance chasers. (For the good of society, of course.)

aczarnowski said...

Thanks for going to HuffPo so we don't have to. Fearing an aneurysm, I left after the first page of comments.

Before my hasty exit I did learn this was in Florida. I guess a good solid anchor on the left end of the union's bell curve is... something?

Paul said...

For 23,000,000,000 I would give you a group discount.

That being said, I doubt it will ever be paid as that covers a lot of lawyers to keep it in the courts until everyone is dead.

I would give you a deal on the 16,800,000 she got as compensatory damages. 50% up front in small bills please.

TJIC said...

You quit smoking?

That's awesome; great work!

JimB said...

I smoked for 16 years. I stopped cold 32 years ago. If I die from smoking I only have myself to blame...

Alien said...

I'm wondering about two things:

$16.8M in compensatory damages? With whom was the deceased employed, and at what? Did he possess significant non-financial attributes to justify that amount? According to census.gov, black males born in Florida in 1960 have an average life expectancy of 59.95 years. Michael Johnson died at age 36, 24 years early; that's $700K/yr for the remainder.

And, why did the jury stop at $23B? Market cap on RJ Reynolds is $31B, on net annual income of $363M. Sure, stock value will drop if the judgment is implemented, but everything from buildings to contracts is an asset, and even the painted lines in the parking lot have some value.

Last I heard, smoking - cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, plus "chews" and "dip" - is legal in all 57 states, and I haven't heard of any tobacco companies pointing guns at people to get them to consume their products. Even their ability to advertise their wares has been severely curtailed during much of Mr. Johnson's life.

I commend Tam for quitting (I quit 38 years ago, and I'll admit it took effort), but I'm extremely suspect of any process that produces such outlandish awards for what is a legal, though socially unacceptable, activity.

This may not quite portend the tumbrels, but I can hear the wheels on the cobblestones from here.

Noah said...

"Fearing an aneurysm, I left after the first page of comments."

Never get out of the boat.
Never go full retard.
Never read the comments.

Comrade Misfit said...

If RJR's lawyers lose an appeal to reduce that verdict down to much over $500, they probably ought to be shot.

Windy Wilson said...

No fuss, no muss, Some judge will review this wet dream of free money.

Anonymous said...

For that kind of money, you could build a time machine, go back in time, and kill Melvin Belli.
That would solve many of today's tort issues.


staghounds said...

I might kill MYSELF for $23 billion.

In advance of course.

Actually this figure isn't irrational. Punitive damages are meant to punish and the jury was so instructed.

Anonymous said...

I have five bucks that says the deceased had a life insurance policy of $250,000 tops. Funny how when people have to pay the premiums their lives are worth a lot less.


"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Shakespeare, I forget which play.

Bubblehead Les. said...

It's not the Jury so much that bothers me, it's the fact that the Judge didn't rule from the Bench that the Damages were excessive in the first place. I guess The Judge failed to check the records on how many of those Damage Awards were Overturned in many,many courts.

Sounds like The Judge needs to be pushed off the Bench because of Politickin' to me.

Bubblehead Les. said...

It's not the Jury so much that bothers me, it's the fact that the Judge didn't rule from the Bench that the Damages were excessive in the first place. I guess The Judge failed to check the records on how many of those Damage Awards were Overturned in many,many courts.

Sounds like The Judge needs to be pushed off the Bench because of Politickin' to me.

Kristophr said...

Yup. Will fail on appeal, and the judge needs to be impeached for incompetence.

mikee said...

Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.

There is every likelihood the members of the jury, and perhaps even the judge, can't tell the difference between billions and millions, and maybe hundreds of thousands.

Sigman said...


It was Henry V (my favorite work of his).

Thing is, everyone has known since the early 60s that smoking is dangerous. To my mind, there is a certain amount of assumed risk for anyone that has started smoking since then. That any judge or jury would entertain that kind of award seems crazy to me.

And FWIW I'm not sure there's anyone safe at that price.

staghounds said...

No, Henry IV in which Dick mouths the line.

staghounds said...

I've never understood the anger at lawyers for this sort of thing.

The lawyer was hired by a non lawyer to do as she willed, the lawyer is the customer's servant.

Non lawyers decided on the number.

The Florida legislature, chosen mainly by non lawyers, has created a procedure to limit punitive damages.

The jurors- probably none of them lawyers- followed this scheme, found the facts that exempted RJR from the caps, and found punitive damages.


Clearly those jurors want RJR to quit tobaccoing.

Why are "the lawyers" at fault? This is a Republic, the people make their laws.

Knox, said...

See, Gore v BMW, a USSC decusion which essentially sets the outside limites for constitutionally acceptable punitive damages at arounf 7x the punis. My best guess is that this will happen. STILL a ton of dough.

Sigivald said...

The lawsuit's goal was to stop tobacco companies from targeting children and young people with their advertising, said Willie Gary, another attorney representing Robinson.


I'll give him a dollar if he can show me any American tobacco company "targeting" children with their advertising.

(I'm sure his "young people" includes ... adults.)

og said...

Dont look at me. My "kill anyone" threshold is about 230,000 times lower than that.

Ed said...


Stick to your knitting, Defarge!

"“Take my knitting,” said Madame Defarge, giving it to The Vengeance. “Have it waiting for me at my usual seat near the guillotine. Save my usual chair for me. Go right now, for there will probably me a bigger crowd than usual there today.”
“I will follow my chief’s orders,” said The Vengeance eagerly. She kissed Madame Defarge on the cheek. “You won’t be late?”
“I’ll be there before they begin.”
“And before the tumbrils arrive with the prisoners. Make sure that you are there before the tumbrils arrive!”"


"There were many women who had been badly disfigured by the violent atmosphere of the time, but there was no one among them more terrifying than Madame Defarge, who was now walking through the streets. She had a strong and fearless character and was smart and always prepared. She was determined and had the kind of beauty that not only seems to impart strength and ferocity but also makes others recognize those qualities in her instinctually. The troubled times would have raised her up under any circumstances, but her childhood had also given her a sense of injustice and a hatred of the upper class. These conditions had turned her into a tigress, and she was completely pitiless. If she had ever had any pity in her, it was gone.

She didn’t care that an innocent man was about to die for the sins of his ancestors. She saw them, not him. She didn’t care that his wife was about to become a widow and his daughter an orphan. That wasn’t enough punishment, because they were her natural enemies and prey, and so they had no right to live. It was useless to appeal to her, since she had no pity, even for herself. If she had been struck down in the streets in one of the many battles she had been involved in, she wouldn’t have pitied herself. If she were sent to the guillotine to die tomorrow, she wouldn’t feel anything but a strong desire to see the person who sent her there killed instead."
"Tale of Two Cities", Charles Dickens

Congratulations on being tobacco-free. Knitting does give you something to do with your hands.

Ed said...

I left off the following paragraph to the above:

"That was the heart Madame Defarge had under her rough robe. She wore her robe carelessly. It was an attractive robe in a strange way. Her dark hair looked thick under her rough red cap. A loaded pistol hid in her shirt, and a sharp dagger was hidden at her waist. Dressed like this, she walked confidently, like a woman who had often walked barefoot and barelegged along brown, sandy beaches as a young girl. Madame Defarge made her way through the streets."

Armed with more than knitting needles and attitude!

Gawd Dickens was good.

staghounds said...

Knox- I don't know about that. The factual findings the Florida jury had to make will give plenty of distinguishing room from Gore, which was a shady business practice case where BMW was selling repaired cars as new.

Defrauding rich people of the illusion of newness is different even in Gore's terms from killing thousands of people for money.

After all, punitive damages are meant to stop the conduct. Florida's statute has a protection from repetitive punitive damages. RJR has been hit with punitives before, and so the Court here must have found they were "insufficient to punish that defendant's behavior" and that the "defendant's act or course of conduct has (not) ceased."

Having been punished and punished, RJR is still selling cancer after 40 years of knowing. So there's plenty of the "reprehensibility" that the Court didn't find in Gore.

The third of Gore's limiting questions- civil and criminal penalties for similar conduct- won't help RJR like it helped BMW- RICO permits total forfeiture.

Also remember that JJ Scalia, Ginsburg, and Thomas are already on record that the Federal courts have no authority to even rule on the issue, and there are several new Justices.

I agree there will be some remittitur activity, but I wouldn't bet on how much or whether RJR will be willing to buy this one. The future prospects are just too scary. Lots of smokers in Florida and the suits are easy to win on the facts.

It might get really interesting for RJR stockholders.

Atom Smasher said...

"Herb, I looked up "tumbrels". It has nothing to do with high heels and leather."

CarlosT said...

The tobacco companies aren't "killing thousands of people for money". The risks are printed right there on the package. Taxes are collected on sales and some of that money is used for ads educating people about the detrimental effects, which as others have mentioned, have been widely known for 50 years or more.

At this point, unless you're dropped out of a time machine from the 19th century, it's just not reasonable to claim you were misled into thinking cigarettes aren't bad for you. If you choose to smoke, you're doing so knowing you're harming yourself.

mikee said...

A payment to the plaintiff would be detrimental to RJR's ability to pay the previous penalties and current taxes for its products, which go to the local, state and federal government.

Guess who will win this argument?

Knox said...


I read Judge Lundstrom's opinion in that Oregon case which distinguishes Gore. I guess we will see.

Carrie said...

Thank you for pointing out that juries can be completely moronic.