According to a Boston.com report, a Boston jury awarded a woman's estate $50 million and her son $21 million in damages yesterday in a products liability lawsuit against the makers of Newport cigarettes. The plaintiff showed that back in the 1950s and 1960s, The tobacco company had given free cigarettes to children as young as nine years old in a Boston housing project. Most of the children were African-American, and studies show that 75% of African-American smokers today prefer menthol brands like Newport. the plaintiffs argued that the company engaged in a free givaway marketing strategy to get African-American children hooked on smoking Newports.
Marie Evans died of lung cancer at the age of 54 in 2002. She recalled, in testimony that was videotaped before she died and played to the jury during the trial, how she was given free Newports from a white truck that looked like an ice cream truck when she was nine years old. She traded the cigarettes at first, but started smoking them when she was 13. She said she tried to quit several times, but could not, and smoked until she died.
The $71 million award was for compensatory damages alone, and the jury now will take up whether to award punitive damages. The plaintiffs also have a claim under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which the judge will decide, and which could lead to the doubling or trebling of the damage award.
The tobacco company will ask the trial judge to set aside the verdict, and will file an appeal, and big awards against tobacco companies are often overturned on technicalities. But there is no doubt that cigarette manufacturers have been forced to change their ways because products liability lawyers have gone after them. Lawsuits caused Congress and the Surgeon General to act, and lawsuits have made life safer for the children growing up today.
At KJC Law Firm, we are proud to be part of that movement to use the law to make the world more safe.