Oregon's high court says tobacco company must pay

National tobacco company Philip Morris USA Inc. eventually came around and paid the family of a Portland, Oregon man millions of dollars to settle a personal injury litigation that was filed after the man died from using the company's products. The overall award, including economic damages, interest and other costs, totaled $79.5 million.

The company was even less willing to fork over another sum to the state of Oregon, which totaled 60 percent of that initial award. According to Oregon law, the company must pay 60 percent of punitive damages to the state so that it can be put in a fund to help compensate victims of crimes.

While Oregon is not expecting the money any time soon, the state Supreme Court recently ruled that the company was still responsible for the dispersing of money. Philip Morris argued that demanding the payment was a violation of a master settlement the company struck with 46 states in 1998 that dealt with claims about smoking. A lower court bought this argument, but when the case went to the state's high court, it said Oregon is still entitled to its share of the punitive damages regardless of what the lawsuit concerned.

The lawsuit at the center of this controversy took place in 1999, filed by the family of a janitor who died of lung cancer he got from smoking. A jury awarded the family with the sum of money. While Philip Morris appealed the decision for years, the company finally paid up.

But Oregon officials do not know when the state will receive its payment, but said it does not intend on pursuing any more litigation.

Source: Associated Press, "Oregon's high court says Philip Morris has to pay up," Tim Fought, Dec. 3, 2011

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