The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a decision in Philip Morris USA v. Williams which appears to impose some limitations on punitive damage awards. In that case, a widow successfully sued, receiving a verdict for the death of her husband due to smoking, in the amount of $821,000. The additional award of $79.5 million was overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the jury had considered injuries to others who were "not a party to the action."
As noted by my partner, Bruce Nye, in his blog, Cal Biz Lit, this doesn't appear to do any great favors for the defense, at least in California. The Supreme Court's decision actually appears consistent with California instructions that permit the jury to consider whether the defendant "disregarded the health or safety of others." The New York Times, however, ran an editorial in which the writer opined that the injury to others should certainly be a consideration, as noted in the Mass Tort Litigation blog.
Overall, this case appears to be one in which the Plaintiff's counsel was permitted to argue, not just the merits of the case as to their own decedent, but also to spend considerable time pointing out all of the injuries inflicted on all of the other smokers by the apparent conduct of the cigarette companies. While not earth shaking, it may be of use to attorneys in trial courts when arguing about evidence intended for use against their clients.