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Florida Tobacco Trial: Tobacco Lawyers Prepare for Appeals ProcessAired July 17, 2000 - 2:25 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Lawyers for big tobacco are back in court today, ahead of what is sure to be a lengthy appeals process. A six-member jury handed down a record-breaking $145 billion damage award Friday. Ultimately, it will be up to the courts to decide whether it sticks.
CNN's Susan Candiotti reports.
JUDGE ROBERT KAYE: All right, what have we got this morning.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The attorney for Philip Morris did the talking for all five tobacco companies. Dan Webb told the court they'll file appeals by July 24.
He told reporters the tobacco industry expects to win in the end.
DAN WEBB, PHILIP MORRIS ATTORNEY: We believe that you can't determine the rights of 700,000 people without hearing any evidence whatsoever about their claims and the validity of those claims.
CANDIOTTI: Attorneys representing those sick Florida smokers acknowledge the $145 billion award might be reduced. They claim a moral victory. The smokers' attorneys ridiculed tobacco for mounting a self-promotional television campaign during the closing weeks of the trial, ads such as this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Philip Morris and Meals on Wheels are fighting more than just hunger among the elderly, we're fighting loneliness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STANLEY ROSENBLATT, SMOKERS' ATTORNEY: We expect a public relations offensive on their part that somehow they were the victims in all this. And I think that the public will see through that. Because these jurors had no ax to grind.
JOHN MESTRE, JUROR: They were going to appeal no matter what. If we said a dollar they would have appealed, I'm telling you. CANDIOTTI: John Mestre, one of the jurors, the only smoker on the panel, he says his habit did not influence him. His verdict was swayed by evidence that tobacco companies hid the dangers of cigarettes and lied to the American public.
MESTRE: There was one document that started out by saying nicotine, an addictive drug. And then I see them telling Congress it's not addictive. You know, it was unreal.
CANDIOTTI: Also watching the appeals process closely, plaintiffs, including Ralph Della Vecchia, whose wife died of lung and brain cancer. He brushes off tobacco's claims that the $145 billion award would bankrupt them.
RALPH DELLA VECCHIA, PLAINTIFF'S WIDOWER: They make a million dollars a day. They make billions and billions and billions of dollars a year. They own everything. So they can afford it.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Florida law prohibits punitive damages from sinking a company. The law also requires tobacco to post a maximum $100 million bond to get through the appeals process. Attorneys say even that may be appealed.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.
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