Broin v. Philip Morris, Inc.

Class Actions — Objections to Proposed Settlements
Docket Number: 
Case Description: 

This class action was brought by flight attendant Norma Broin and other non-smoking flight attendants against the tobacco companies, alleging that they suffered injuries — ranging from lung cancer and heart disease to sinusitis and chronic bronchitis — because of the effects of second-hand smoke in airline cabins. After an enormous effort in both the trial and appellate courts, the plaintiffs were able to get the class certified. A jury was picked and trial began.

During presentation of the defendants' case, the suit settled. The settlement had two principal components:

  1. The defendants would provide $300 million to set up a medical research foundation — named after the lead plaintiff Norma Broin — to study the prevention and cure of tobacco-related illnesses; and
  2. a one-year waiver of the statute of limitations, to commence when the settlement became final, on personal-injury actions brought by individual class members against the tobacco companies.

In addition, in individual suits, defendants would assume the burden of proof on general causation regarding certain conditions (e.g., whether smoking causes lung cancer). In exchange, the defendants obtained the following concessions:

  1. They would not have to pay any money damages to class members as part of the class action;
  2. In individual suits, the class members could not seek punitive damages, could not consolidate their cases with other cases or participate in class actions, and could not maintain a claim on the basis of fraud, misrepresentation, RICO, or any other intentional tort theory. Finally, defendants agreed to pay class counsel — Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt — $46 million in fees and up to $3 million in expenses.

Public Citizen represented 13 class members in opposition to the settlement.