Victory for Big Tobacco Is a Victory for Rule of Law
July 6, 2006
IRVINE, CA-- The Florida Supreme Court has just upheld an appellate court decision to throw out a $145 billion verdict in the case of Engle vs. Liggett group. "While the decision is being hailed as a major victory for tobacco companies, it is far more than that. The court effectively rejected an assault on a fundamental principle that our lives depend on: the rule of law," said Alex Epstein, junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute,
"In 2001, tobacco companies were ordered to pay $145 billion in immediate, punitive damages in the name of their alleged crimes against 700,000 Florida smokers. The unprecedented punishment was arrived at via a trial that flouted the law to a staggering degree. The plaintiff's attorney, Stanley Rosenblatt, knowing that the law did not allow for the massive punishment he sought, made emotionally charged appeals to the jury to ignore the law--appeals that the trial judge, who also clearly disliked the tobacco companies, did little to stop. Both plaintiff's attorney and the judge adopted the mentality of a lynch mob that righteously hangs a man because it feels he must be evil.
"Thankfully, the anarchy of the Engle case was rejected by the Florida Supreme Court. The battle for rule of law is not over, however; we must repudiate such lawlessness wherever it occurs. Like all encroachments on individual rights, this one is beginning by targeting unpopular individuals and groups. If we allow it to stand, many innocent, law-abiding Americans are thereby deprived of their rights. And if we allow it to stand, nobody's rights are safe."
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Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.