Philip Morris USA v. Williams

Jesse Williams, represented by his widow, was a heavy cigarette smoker. He is suing Philip Morris, the manufacturer of Marlboro, the brand that Williams smoked, for negligence and deceit.  A jury found that Williams' death was caused by smoking; that Williams smoked in significant part because he thought it was safe to do so; and that Philip Morris knowingly and falsely led him to believe that smoking was safe. The jury ultimately found that Philip Morris negligent and had engaged in deceit. In respect to deceit, the claim at issue here, the jury awarded compensatory damages of about $821,000 along with $79.5 million in punitive damages.

The trial judge subsequently found the $79.5 million punitive damages award "excessive" and reduced it to $32 million. Both sides appealed. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled against Philip Morris, and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review.  The Supreme Court of the United States reviewed the punitive damages. The Supreme Court remanded the decision and held that the punitive damages award was based in part on the jury's desire to punish the defendant for harming non-parties and amounted to a taking of property from the defendant without due process.  The Court did not reach the issue of whether the existing award was constitutionally “grossly excessive.”


Philip Morris USA v. Williams, 127 S.Ct. 1057, 549 U. S. 346, US Supreme Court (2007).

  • United States
  • Feb 20, 2007
  • US Supreme Court



Defendant Mayola Williams

Legislation Cited

The Constituion of the United States of America (Due Process Clause)

Related Documents

Type of Litigation

Tobacco Control Topics

Substantive Issues

Type of Tobacco Product