Robert W. Johnson & Associates were retained to provide economic testimony quantifying both the present cash value of the household services and a framework for determining punitive damages.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Case: Leslie Whiteley, et al., vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris.
Court: San Francisco County, California Superior Court, No.303184
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Attorneys Madelyn Chaber, Robert Brown and Harry Wartnick, San Francisco, California.
Case Synopsis: Leslie Whiteley, a 40-year-old married mother of four, began smoking when she was 13 years old. This was after warning labels were placed on packages of cigarettes. Mrs. Whiteley was
diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998. The lung cancer had also spread to her brain and liver. The defense
strategy focused on her past smoking of marijuana and illicit drug use, including the fact that she did not
stop smoking after she became pregnant.
Expert Consultation: Mr. Johnson testified at deposition that Mrs. Whiteley's household services could be approximated by a U.S. government study on the value of household services. The study placed
the value of a homemakerís services at over $21,000 per year. The present value of the lost household
services was over $750,000. At the trial, when Mr. Johnson was scheduled to testify, the defense stipulated
to Mr. Johnsonís numbers.
During the punitive portion of the trial Mr. Johnson testified to both Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company financial health, wealth and economic status. Using exclusively the financial documents that each defendant filed with the SEC, Mr. Johnson detailed how each firm’s profits had increased since the $225 billion settlement with the states. In addition he was able to document their vast cash reserves, available lines of credit and net worth to the jury.
Results: In the compensatory phase of the case, the jury awarded Mrs. Whiteley and her family $1,700,000 for her lost household services, pain and suffering, loss of consortium. In the punitive damages phase of the trial, the jury awarded $20,000,000 ($10 million from each defendant) to Mrs. Whiteley. Mrs. Whiteley passed away two months after the verdict.