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U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Tobacco Company Appeal

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a challenge by Philip Morris USA over a $79.5 million punitive-damage award to the widow of a heavy smoker, The New York Times reported.

The top court said it should not have agreed to hear the case after all. The case was making its third appearance before the court.

The Oregon Supreme Court had repeatedly upheld a verdict against the cigarette maker from a fraud trial in 1999. In its appeal, Philip Morris said the Oregon Supreme Court had defied an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case.

This week's U.S. Supreme Court's ruling is precedent-setting.

"Business interests had once hoped the high court would use the case to set firm limits on the award of punitive damages, which are intended to punish a defendant for its behavior and deter a repeat offense," The Times reported.

During the 10-year court battle, the value of punitive damages owed to Mayola Williams has grown to about $145 million with interest. Her husband Jesse died of lung cancer after smoking two packs of Marlboro cigarettes a day for 45 years.

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