August 20, 2010 - A Boston judge delayed ruling Monday, August 16th on Lorillard Tobacco Co.'s request to reject a lawsuit that accuses the nation's third-largest tobacco company of targeting black youth in its cigarette marketing.
Judge Linda Giles of Suffolk Superior Court told lawyers for both sides she wanted to review the case filings as well as previous court cases before ruling on Lorillard's request for a favorable decision without going to trial. "I have reviewed your submissions," Giles told the lawyers. "I have not digested them.
The case is thought to be the first lawsuit to accuse a tobacco company of targeting black youth in its marketing.
The 2004 lawsuit was filed by Will Evans, the son of Marie Evans, who died of lung cancer in 2002 at age 54. Lawyers for the family say the Greensboro, N.C.-based company should be held responsible for Marie Evans' exposure to cigarettes from the time she was 9 and for her eventual addiction to tobacco.
Attorneys for Lorillard argued at Monday's hearing that the family has not presented enough evidence to prove at trial that the company is responsible for Marie Evans' 40-year smoking addiction and the effect it had on her health.
The judge said if she decides to allow the case to go forward, the trial will begin November 1, 2010.
According to the plaintiff's lawyers, Marie Evans started getting free Newport cigarettes in her Boston neighborhood when she was 9, initially trading the cigarettes for candy then smoking them when she turned 13. As a child, she was too young to recognize the dangers of smoking and was lured into the habit by Lorillard advertising, the lawyers say.
The plaintiff's lawyers also claimed Monday that Lorillard committed battery (an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the "person" of another) against Marie Evans when she was offered cigarettes as a child. Attorney Rebecca McIntyre said sales people who frequently distributed cigarettes in Marie Evans' neighborhood wore shirts with Newport's colors on them and sometimes arrived in a van that carried the Newport logo.
But Lorillard attorney Andrew McElaney said, "There is no evidence in this case that will support the finding that Lorillard Tobacco Co. gave Marie Evans cigarettes."
In Richard Kluger's book Ashes to Ashes Ashes pg 700 Joe Tye's organization, Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco (STAT), caught Lorillard in the act of sampling youngsters with Newports from a van painted green and orange and bearing the brand's slogan, "Alive with Pleasure," in large, equally attention-getting letters on the strets of the nation's capital.In addition, he said, the lawsuit should have been filed within three years of a heart attack Marie Evans suffered in 1985 to meet the statute of limitations.
Reference: Lorillard says not liable for smoker's addiction by LYLE MORAN - Associated Press Writer, Raleigh News & Observer - Associated Press, 8/16/2010.
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