Jury Awards $71M In Case Alleging Distribution Of Cigarettes To Children

Jury Awards $71M In Case Alleging Distribution Of Cigarettes To Children

BOSTON -- (Mealey's) A Massachusetts jury awarded $71 million in compensatory damages on Dec. 14 to the estate and only son of a woman who said she began smoking free Newport cigarettes handed out in her neighborhood by Lorillard Tobacco Co., according to published reports (Will Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Company, et al., No. SUCV2004-02840, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). 

The jury before Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey deliberated for nearly a week and reportedly was deadlocked at one point. 

Marie Evans died of lung cancer in 2002 when she was 54, after smoking Lorillard's Newports for more than 40 years, the reports say.  She reportedly testified by recorded deposition that she became addicted at age 13, smoking Newports distributed for free in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.

Her son reportedly argued that Lorillard targeted youths and minorities with free Newport cigarettes distributed by glamorous white people. 

The jury reportedly found in favor of the plaintiffs on all questions and awarded $50 million to Evans' estate and $21 million to Will Evans.   

The company said it would appeal.

"Lorillard respectfully disagrees with the jury's verdict and denies the plaintiff's claim that the company sampled to children or adults at Orchard Park in the early 1960's," Lorillard's Gregg Perry said in a press release.  "The plaintiff's 50-year-old memories were persuasively contradicted by testimony from several witnesses." 

The jury is now to consider punitive damages, according to reports. 

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the January issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Tobacco.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

For more information, call editor Michael Lefkowitz at 215-988-7732, or e-mail him at michael.lefkowitz@lexisnexis.com.