In a lawsuit, money is awarded to the winner based on injury or loss caused by the loser. This award is called “damages.” Two categories of damages are common in lawsuits against tobacco companies concerning smoking-related injuries.
One type of damages typically awarded in tobacco cases are known as “compensatory damages.” These are also known as “actual damages.” As the name suggests, compensatory damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for the loss, injury, or harm suffered. This includes reimbursing the plaintiff for actual costs resulting from the injury, such as medical bills. Also, money can be awarded to reimburse the injured party for any pain and suffering.
The other type of damages often awarded in tobacco lawsuits are punitive damages. These are damages over and above the compensatory damages, and are awarded in order to punish the losing party for deliberate or malicious conduct.
Punitive damages are somewhat controversial. Juries often return very large punitive damages which are later reversed or lowered by appellate courts. Also, many states have passed laws limiting punitive damages.