Nation digest 11/27/01

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Big Tobacco appeals $145 billion verdict

MIAMI -- The tobacco industry appealed a record $145 billion verdict Monday, saying the two-year trial was riddled with legal flaws and the attorney for sick Florida smokers used inflammatory rhetoric.

The appeal by the nation's biggest cigarette makers challenged the decision to group all the smokers in a single class-action lawsuit. It also attacked the punitive damage award as "excessive."

The 174-page appeal is the first stage of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle over the verdict reached in July 2000.

Besides questioning the legal basis for many decisions, the appeal attacked plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt. It said he "compared defendants to defenders of slavery and the Holocaust" before a predominantly black jury.

School reopens after alleged plot uncovered

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- A high school where three teen-agers allegedly plotted a Columbine-style bloodbath reopened Monday after a sweep by officers and bomb-sniffing dogs, but many students stayed home.

While those students who did go to school listened to school officials describe what had happened, Eric McKeehan, 17, pleaded innocent and was ordered held without bail. His brother, Michael McKeehan, 15, and Steven Jones, 15, also were being held after pleading innocent in closed hearings.

The students allegedly modeled themselves after the two teen-agers who carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.

The school was declared safe after a sweep by police. Still, 41 percent of the 3,300 students stayed home.

Supreme Court declines to hear NAFTA case

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court sidestepped a constitutional challenge to White House power to negotiate trade pacts and other international deals.

Justices were being pressed to strike down the North American Free Trade Agreement because it was not endorsed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, a constitutional requirement for treaties.

The court declined Monday, without comment, to review the case that could have jeopardized the standing of other agreements and made it harder for presidents to negotiate future pacts.

The United Steelworkers of America argued that presidents should not be allowed to handle international deals like congressional-executive agreements to get around the Senate vote requirement for treaties.

Jury awards family $20 million in tire death

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- A jury ordered Chrysler to pay $20 million to the family of a woman killed when a tire landed on the roof of her minivan.

Annette Boryszewski, 38, was killed in 1998 when her Chrysler-made 1998 Plymouth Voyager was hit by a tire that flew off a Jeep Wrangler.

Chrysler said it will challenge the Nov. 9 verdict.

Chrysler attorney Ken Gluckman said that the woman's death resulted from a "freak accident" and that the Voyager's roof exceeds government requirements and is stronger than the roofs of other minivans.

"The tire hit with such force, any vehicle's roof would have deformed," he said.

-- From wire reports

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