Jury Awards $71M In Free Cigarette Samples Lawsuit

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — A jury has awarded $71 million in damages to the estate and son of a Boston woman who died of lung cancer, ruling in a lawsuit that accused Lorillard Tobacco Co. of trying to entice black children to become smokers by handing out free samples in urban neighborhoods.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury announced its verdict Tuesday.

Willie Evans alleged that Lorillard introduced his mother to smoking as a child in the 1950s by giving her free Newport cigarettes in her Boston housing project. Evans said his mother smoked for more than 40 years before dying of lung cancer at age 54.

Ed Sweeda, a senior attorney at the Tobacco Products Liability project at Northeastern University, applauds the ruling. “What is especially gratifying is that even… after many decades have passed since the wrongful conduct of Lorillard’s handing out samples to young children took place, the company is now being held accountable.”

WBZ News Radio’s Lana Jones reports.

Lawyers for the Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard said that like many other cigarette companies, it gave away free samples decades ago, but insisted that the company did not give them to children. “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,” said Gergg Perry, a spokesman for the Lorillard Tobacco Company. “The plaintiff’s 50-year-old memories were persuasively contradicted by testimony from several witnesses.”

Lorillard says it will appeal the verdict.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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