BOSTON (AP) — A tobacco company that had tried to hook black children on cigarettes was ordered Thursday to pay $81 million in punitive damages to the estate and son of a Boston woman who started smoking at age 13, in what an attorney said is one of the largest jury awards of its kind in the United States.
The verdict came one day after jurors decided Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. should pay $71 million in compensatory damages to Willie Evans and the estate of his mother, Marie, who died of lung cancer in 2002. Their lawsuit claimed Marie Evans began smoking after Lorillard gave away free cigarette samples at the Boston housing project where she lived.
During the trial, a lawyer for Lorillard said that like many other cigarette companies it gave samples decades ago to adults in an attempt to get them to switch brands. But the company insisted it did not give cigarettes to children and called the allegation that it intentionally gave samples to black children "disturbing."
The company's lawyer also said Evans herself decided to start smoking and continued to smoke even after she suffered a heart attack in 1985 and her doctors repeatedly urged her to quit.
A company spokesman declined to comment Thursday and referred to a statement issued a day earlier that said Lorillard disagrees with the jury verdict and would appeal.
Still, that did not discourage attorneys for Evans from savoring success in court.
Marie Evans "was vindicated" and got what she had wanted when she sat for three days of videotaped deposition just weeks before she died, said Michael Weisman, one of her son's attorneys.
"One of the questions I asked her was, 'Is this something you really want to do?'" Weisman said. "She said she did, and she wanted to do it because she wanted to tell her story because ... one day she wanted the jury to hear her story."
Her son was gratified by Thursday's jury verdict, Weisman said.
"He was very proud that he had been there and had done what his mom wanted him to do," Weisman said.
Edward L. Sweda, senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Boston's Northeastern University School of Law, called the verdict "one of the largest individual punitive damages in the United States and it's combined with the largest compensatory damages verdict ever in the U.S. for an individual in a tobacco case."
A judge has yet to rule on allegations that Lorillard committed unfair or deceptive acts when it handed out the free cigarettes. The company makes Kent, True, Old Gold, Maverick and Max cigarettes.
Under Massachusetts law, the judge can award additional money to Evans and his mother's estate if there is evidence that Lorillard lied, was manipulative and committed illegal practices as a corporation, said Thomas Srisardi, another attorney for Evans.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
A 27-year-old man suffered fatal injuries as the result of a "punching game'' inside of a bar Saturday morning in the Gaslamp
neighborhood of San Diego.
SANDAG began removing call boxes along urban highways throughout the San Diego region this month and will continue to do so through June, reflecting a decrease in call volume due to the increase in cell phone ownership.
Authorities today announced that police have arrested a suspect in connection with Friday's sexual assault on the campus of San Diego Mesa College. The name of the suspect was not immediately released.
Showers will be mostly light Saturday morning, decreasing into early Saturday afternoon. Another round of showers expected to push through late afternoon ending late Saturday night.
Police Chief David Nisleit Friday strongly disavowed what he described as an unofficial, "never authorized" departmental program that rewarded officers for making narcotics arrests.
On Friday, San Diego Police announced their search for a suspect involved in a robbery off the San Diego State University campus.
A court-appointed receiver has taken control of a Pacific Beach "hoarder house" that has accumulated trash, created unsafe conditions for children and harbored vermin in recent years, the San Diego City Attorney's Office announced Friday.
The owners of Hauser's Patio reached out to News 8 Friday morning asking to be put in contact with the couple who had their furniture stolen from their patio in Pacific Beach this week.