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The smoke has cleared a little on the recent decision of the Florida Supreme Court that was initially hailed as a victory for Big Tobacco. (Pardon the pun.) It now appears that the legal pathway for 700,000 smokers to a recovery for their smoking-related injuries may be much straighter than before the ruling. The courthouse doors are now open to the smokers. As they enter they are handed certain findings of deception on the part of the cigarette manufacturers and causation, which were left in place, that should help immensely in proving their entitlement to damage awards.

The Supreme Court decision is summarized by Reuters:

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court decision to throw out a $145 billion punitive damage award against the major tobacco companies, a major victory for the cigarette industry.

A Miami jury had ruled in 2000 that the tobacco companies deceived smokers about the dangers of cigarettes and ordered them to pay $145 billion in punitive damages to ailing Florida smokers, estimated to number 300,000 to 700,000.

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in 2003 and said the state’s settlement with the tobacco companies in a multistate lawsuit barred the awarding of punitive damages. It also decertified the class action, meaning smokers would have to sue individually, not as a group.

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