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    Cigarette Makers Appeal Verdict

    Tobacco companies argue that a Florida judge repeatedly erred while running an unfair trial.

    MIAMI -- The tobacco industry filed its appeal Monday of the trial that produced a record $145 billion verdict for sick Florida smokers. The nation's biggest cigarette makers challenged decisions grouping all of the smokers under a single class-action lawsuit and attacked the punitive damage award as "bankrupting and excessive," the Associated Press reported.Pretrial decisions and the trial itself were riddled with defects and errors, including "racially inflammatory arguments to a predominantly African-American jury" by the smokers' attorney, the tobacco industry argued. The appeal is the first stage of what is expected to be a prolonged legal battle over the verdict reached in July 2000 after a two-year trial. The defendants are Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard and the Liggett Group. Liggett, the smallest of the industry's five biggest companies, did not join in on the joint appellate filing with the other companies.

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