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Georgia family can't seek punitive damages against tobacco company

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 10, 2006

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The Georgia Supreme Court ruled on March 13 that individuals can't sue tobacco companies for punitive damages because the state participated in the 1998 tobacco settlement.

In the 6-1 decision, the high court found that "punitive damages serve a public interest and are intended to protect the general public, as opposed to benefiting or rewarding particular private parties," Justice Carol W. Hunstein wrote.

The family of Clara Gault Freeman sued Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., alleging that the company's Kool cigarettes caused 43-year-old Freeman's death in 2001.

The court ruled in favor of Brown & Williamson, now merged with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. The company claimed that it was released from liability because Georgia joined the $246 billion Master Settlement Agreement across 46 states for tobacco-related health injuries. Georgia recovered $4.8 billion from the companies, including B&W.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/04/10/prbf0410.htm.

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