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Defense rests in Florida smokers case
MIAMI (CNN) -- Attorneys for the five biggest tobacco companies in the world rested their case Friday morning in a landmark class action lawsuit brought by Florida Smokers, setting up what could be the largest damages award in history.
"On Behalf of the defense ... we have now rested our case," said Philip Morris attorney Dan Webb.
The attorney for the smokers, Stanley Rosenblatt, then re-rested his case.
Earlier, Webb gave the court some scarcely seen insight into the defense table as he argued for more time to deliver the industry's closing statement. While the industry was united during the earlier causation phase of the trial, it has become apparent that they had all become single entities as the punishment phase of the case began.
"We are independent of each other. I don't quite know how to say this, but there is a lot of disagreement with these five companies," he said.
The judge decided to allow two full days for each side beginning July 10.
The case brought by up to a half million Florida smokers and survivors could be the largest punitive award ever handed down. "There's a tremendous amount at stake in this case," Webb said. "It's the largest claim in American history ... for an amount of money, and I'm trying not to overstate it, but these companies have their survival at stake."
The jury, which has been hearing the case for nearly two years, will now decide how much money the industry should pay those damaged. The same jury determined last year that the industry conspired to make a deadly, addictive and defective product which caused cancer and other diseases.
The jury has also awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three of the class members.
The industry has argued it should not be punished at all, claiming the companies have changed their practices in recent years by starting youth smoking prevention programs, pulling advertisements from magazines aimed at teens, and warning consumers of the risks of smoking.
The companies, which are already paying out $254 billion in a national settlement with 46 states, called all five of their chief executives to the stand in rare courtroom appearances to fight the threat of a huge punitive damage award.
Experts have predicted it could be the largest punitive damage award ever handed down by a jury.
Lawyers for the Florida smokers say the companies can afford to pay damages of as much as $157 billion.
The defendants include Philip Morris Inc, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., and Liggett Group, Inc.
Tough questioning of tobacco executive by industry attorneys
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