$35 Million Awarded to Family of Boston Tobacco Victim
The landmark ruling in a wrongful death suit could pave the way for future smoking lawsuits.
A landmark case in Boston could pave the way for future lawsuits against Big Tobacco. Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court ruled yesterday that the family of Marie Evans, who died of lung cancer in 2002 at age 54, could keep $35 million in compensatory damages from an $81 million wrongful death suit filed against Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. Though a retrial was ordered for the $81 million in punitive damages, the amount awarded to the family makes this ruling a major milestone in lawsuits against tobacco companies. Evans said in a taped statement that she became hooked at age 13 after repeatedly getting free Newport cigarette samples at the playground near her home. At the time, Lorillard used the strategy to target young people, especially in urban communities, and marketed their brand as a "fun" cigarette for kids. As an adult, Evans smoked about 1.5 packs a day and tried to quit more than 50 times, including after a heart attack. She recorded a video which was shown to jurors in the wrongful death suit, filed after her death. "This is huge," says Mark Gottlieb, director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law. He says the results of this case could make Massachusetts "the most attractive state for tobacco litigation in the country," and that the state could soon see "hundreds and eventually thousands of cases" against tobacco companies. Lorillard spokesman Greg Perry says the company disagreed with the compensatory damages decision and is "considering options for further review."