A Massachusetts jury has decided that the Lorillard Tobacco Co. attempted to attract African-American teenagers to smoking by giving out free cigarettes. The jury awarded $71 million compensation to son and the estate of a female smoker who died of lung cancer.
The Suffolk Superior Court jury read out its ruling last week after hearing months of testimony.
Mr. Willie Evans stated Lorillard, the oldest tobacco company in the nation, enticed his mother, Marie Evans, to trying cigarettes in the 1950s by providing her with free Newport cigarettes during a project held in at the Orchard Park residential complex in Boston, where she resided. He noted his mother was smoking during almost 40 years and died after continuous battle against lung cancer at age 54.
According to the verdict, Lorillard would have to pay late Marie Evans’ estate $50 million in damages and awarded another $21 million to her son.
During the lawsuit, an attorney for Greensboro-based Lorillard, and manufactures flagship Newport brand, and Kent, True, Maverick and other brands, declared that the company, like its major rivals, distributed free cigarette samples many years ago to adult smokers trying to attract them to its products. However, the lawyer insisted it did not distribute any samples to adolescents and said that the allegation that it intentionally passed out free cigarettes to African-American kids “disturbing.”
Lorillard attorney as well stated Evans decided to begin smoking and did not quit the habit even after a heart attack she had in 1985 when her doctors repeatedly asked her to get rid of smoking. The company’s spokesman declared they would appeal the ruling.
“Lorillard respectfully expresses disagreement with the ruling and negates the plaintiff’s allegation that it gave samples to adolescents or adults at Orchard Park in Boston in the 1960s,” Lorillard spokesperson Gregg Perry stated. “The plaintiff’s testimony based on 50-year-old memories was convincingly contradicted by several witnesses. Lorrilard is set to appeal this ruling and is confident the Massachusetts Court of Appeals would review that case.”
This lawsuit is the first of its kind in the United States to accuse a tobacco company of attracting African-American adolescents by giving out cigarette samples in urban neighborhoods, admitted Edward A. Sweda, Tobacco Products Liability Project attorney.
Sweda said this lawsuit could result in similar lawsuits across the nation by other people who were given free cigarettes in their childhood.
Marie Evans’ attorney stated she got her first cigarettes when she was 9 and first passed them to her older sisters or exchanged them for candy, but she started smoking when she was 13.
Jurors also were ale to hear Evan’s testimony through a videotaped recording she gave to her attorneys in 2002, shortly before her death. On the tape, she admitted free cigarettes had a great effect on her, because they were available and she needed no money to get them.