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A $145bn verdict and a “roar of moral outrage”

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7257.322 (Published 05 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:322

Attorney Stanley Rosenblatt has just won the largest damages award in the history of US litigation—against US cigarette companies. He talks to Ron Davis about the verdict and his 10 year legal war with the tobacco industry

He has been described as flamboyant and abrasive. He admits that he “may be overzealous at times,” maybe even nasty or rude. But “when I feel a witness is lying about something, what am I as a lawyer supposed to do?” he asks. “Be polite?”

One thing you can say about Stanley Rosenblatt's style: it produces results. On 14 July Rosenblatt won a $145bn (£97bn) damages verdict against the major US cigarette companies in Howard Engle et al v R J Reynolds et al, a class action lawsuit on behalf of 300000 to 700000 Florida smokers harmed by smoking.

Described by a writer for the Chicago Tribune as a “roar of moral outrage,” it was the largest punitive damages award in the history of US litigation, dwarfing the $5bn award against Exxon Mobil for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The Engle verdict came after a trial lasting almost two years. Rosenblatt's other major lawsuit against the tobacco industry was Norma Broin et al v Philip Morris Companies et …

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