Brown & Williamson Tobacco Makes First Payment to Sick Smoker By William McQuillen
Louisville, Kentucky, March 8 (Bloomberg) -- Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. sent a check to Grady Carter, a smoker who developed cancer, marking the first time a cigarette maker has compensated a sick smoker for an illness.
After Florida's Supreme Court's declined to delay the payment pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the unit of British American Tobacco Plc mailed a check for about $1.1 million, said Mark Smith, a Brown & Williamson spokesman. The original 1996 jury verdict had been $750,000, which has grown with interest.
``This is huge,'' said Woody Wilner, Carter's attorney, adding that he received the check today. ``It's the first time in history a smoker has been compensated. It's never happened in history.''
In a January ruling, Florida's high court said it wouldn't revisit the judgment, denying a request for a new hearing.
Louisville-based Brown & Williamson said it still plans its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
``We're confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case and find in our favor,'' Smith said.
Wilner said he would be ready to further defend the judgment if needed, though he doesn't think the appeal has any legal merit.
``It's a matter of state law,'' he said. ``It's a frivolous petition.''
Carter, a retired air traffic controller who smoked cigarettes for 44 years, sued Brown & Williamson in 1995, and the next year a jury awarded him damages. A state appeals court overturned the award, saying Carter, who learned of his cancer in 1991, waited too long to sue.
The Florida Supreme Court reversed, saying the state statute of limitations allows the filing of such a lawsuit within four years, which the jury found Carter had done.
Today, Wilner hailed Carter as ``an American hero'' for bringing the case forward when the tobacco industry appeared unbeatable in court.
``Grady and (his wife) Mildred Carter were unique in that they wanted to stand up to the overwhelming might of the cigarette industry,'' Wilner said.
Smith warned that Carter would have to return the check if the U.S. high court ultimately rules in the cigarette maker's favor. ``I would advise them not to spend the money,'' Smith said.
The Carter judgment is smaller than three other multimillion dollars verdicts that individuals have won against the tobacco industry, though those cases have many appeals ahead before anyone is paid.
Yesterday, a state jury in Beaumont, Texas, absolved Brown & Williamson from responsibility in the 1986 death of a long-time smoker. In the first individual tobacco trial in the state, the jurors deliberated about 10 hours before agreeing with the company that the risks of smoking are well known and the company is not responsible.
In July, a Miami jury directed Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris Cos. and three other companies to pay $145 billion in punitive damages in a class-action case. If that award survives on appeal, Brown & Williamson would be liable for $17.6 billion.
British American, the world's second-largest tobacco company after Philip Morris, sells more than 240 brand names, including Benson & Hedges, Kent and Lucky Strike.
Thats chump change....Besides it was the notorius 7 of the Florida Supreme Court that allowed it to happen....What will you and Grady Carter do when the US Supreme Court orders that money be returned to B&W?....Probably nothing because MO will be at $110/share in 2002...You will have abandoned your losing cause by then or will have lost all of your money