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July 13, 2000

Chamber Calls Florida Verdict Obscene

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 14, 2000 – The United States Chamber of Commerce called today’s decision by a Florida jury, awarding defendants in a tobacco case $145 billion dollars in punitive damages, “an obscene symptom of a court system that is out-of-control.

“Trial lawyers have subverted the legal system for their own financial gain,” said Bruce Josten, Chamber Executive Vice President. “Legitimate, but politically out-of-favor businesses have been attacked by attorneys driven by the prospect of absurd punitive damage awards.”

No industry is immune when there is the tantalizing prospect of billions of dollars of contingency fees, according to the Chamber. “If this trend continues, economic and social decisions affecting all Americans will be made not by democratically elected legislatures, but instead by trial lawyers,” said Josten.

The Chamber filed amicus briefs in support of Florida Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court review – because the presiding Judge, a former smoker, was part of the affected class and could profit from the decision.

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