December 14, 2010 - A Massachusetts jury today ordered cigarette manufacturer Lorillard Inc. to pay $71 million in damages to a dead smoker's family for allegedly seducing the Boston woman decades ago into smoking Newport cigarettes.
The Suffolk Superior Court jury awarded compensatory damages of $50 million to the estate of Marie Evans and $21 million to her son, William Evans. A hearing on punitive damages in the lawsuit has been scheduled for Thursday. The total amount of damages awarded could rise significantly at that hearing.
The case was the first to claim that Lorillard had decided to target minority communities with samples of Newports, a menthol brand more popular among black communities.
Directly related news brief:
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Gregg Perry, a Lorillard spokesman, said the company denied the allegations. He said the company would appeal and was "confident it will prevail."
The jury found that the cigarette company was negligent in passing out samples of cigarettes to Evans and other black children when they were growing up in the Orchard Hill housing development in Boston's Roxbury section -- and in denying for years the health risks associated with cigarettes.
Central Issue.. Boston lawsuit blames woman's death on cigarette freebies, but Lorillard says it never gave to kids. Leslie Adamson said the white truck that stopped at the Boston housing project she grew up in brought adults and children running, much like a visit from the ice cream man. But instead of sweets, the truck brought free cigarette samples.
Lorillard attorney Walter Cofer acknowledged that the company gave away free cigarette samples — a common practice by tobacco companies from the 1950s through the 1980s — but said Lorillard did not give cigarettes to children at Orchard Park.
The cigarette giveaways are a central issue in a lawsuit brought against Lorillard Tobacco Co. by a man who claims his mother was introduced to smoking as a child through the free samples and became so addicted that she was unable to quit and eventually died of lung cancer. Lorillard denies that anyone from the company gave out cigarettes to children.
Jurors also heard from Marie Evans herself as Weisman played excerpts from a videotaped deposition she gave to her lawyers in 2002, three weeks before she died. On the tape, Evans said the giveaways had a "large impact" on her.
In Richard Kluger book 'Ashes To Ashes" page 700 - he writes about the experience of 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 streets of the nation's capital. Lorillard stated, "We do not give cigarettes to children," and blamed the incident on the carelessness of its hired dispensers.The verdict was unusual in that, even as tobacco companies’ past marketing practices have been criticized by government agencies and court rulings, jurors are typically reluctant to side with smokers who bring lawsuits against the companies. Jurors typically want to hold the smoker partly responsible, legal experts have said.
Reference: Mass. jury rules against Lorillard, awards $71M to dead smoker's family, Posted by Andrew Ryan (Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report), Globe Metro Desk, Boston.com, 12/14/2010.
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