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The BBC's Graham Satchell
"This is another massive blow for big tobacco"
 real 56k

The BBC's Steve Evans
"There will be an appeal"
 real 56k

Richard Danard, US Tobacco Control Resource Centre
"The idea of this is not to reward the plaintiffs but to punish the defendants"
 real 28k

Bill Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris' vice president
"The verdict is outrageous"
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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 04:09 GMT 05:09 UK
US smoker wins billions in damages
It is the largest individual payout the industry has faced
A Los Angeles jury has ordered the tobacco company Philip Morris to pay more than $3bn to a smoker suffering from terminal cancer who said the company did not warn him of the dangers of smoking.

The award is the largest individual punitive damage award ever against a cigarette maker, and has set off alarm bells in an industry facing similar suits.

The company's share price fell by nearly $2 to $48.25.

It's outrageous in the extreme and it's the type of verdict that holds the American judicial system up to world-wide ridicule

Philip Morris lawyer Michael York
Richard Boeken, a 56-year-old from California, had accused the company of six counts of fraud, conspiracy and negligence. The jury backed him on all six.

Mr Boeken said at the trial that he had begun smoking Marlboro cigarettes at the age of 13 and only became aware of health warnings in the mid 1990s.

Lawyers for Philip Morris had argued that he knew of the risks but continued to smoke.

Lawyers for the tobacco giant vowed to appeal, and said they would move to have the award reduced.

When you're addicted, you're not open to freedom of choice

Ann Anderson, juror
"It's outrageous in the extreme and it's the type of verdict that holds the American judicial system up to world-wide ridicule," Philip Morris lawyer Michael York said.

"We believe that California law cannot even remotely support such an extreme verdict and that we believe the entire case should be reversed," he said.

Thumbs up

Mr Boeken was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999. The cancer then spread to other parts of his body.

The jury awarded Mr Boeken $3bn in punitive damages and $5.5m in compensatory damages.

Mr Boeken smiled and gave a thumbs up sign as the verdict was read out but declined to speak to reporters.

Acting for the plaintiff, Michael Piuze said his client was a victim of a decades-long campaign promoting smoking as "cool" but hiding its dangers.

'Drug dealer'

In his closing arguments, Mr Piuze described Philip Morris as "the world's biggest drug dealer, something that puts the Colombian drug cartels to shame".

"It's a personal tragedy what has happened to Mr Boeken," Mr York said. "But the fact is that cigarette smoking has been known to be risky."

But juror Ann Anderson was not swayed by that argument. "When you're addicted, you're not open to freedom of choice," Ms Anderson said outside the courtroom.

The verdicts were not unanimous, but do not need to be in US civil trials, where the plaintiff also need only show that a preponderance of the evidence supports the allegations.

The case follows a landmark court ruling on Tuesday in which damages were awarded to a third party in New York State.

Philip Morris and several other tobacco companies were ordered to pay health insurer Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield $17.8m for misleading consumers about the dangers of smoking.

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See also:

07 Jun 01 | Business
Q&A: Tobacco litigation
05 Jun 01 | Business
Insurer wins tobacco suit
15 Jul 00 | Americas
Smokers' $145bn court victory
30 May 01 | Health
EU steps up war on smoking
09 Mar 01 | Business
Smoker gets $1.1m compensation
26 Apr 01 | Americas
US may abandon tobacco lawsuit
02 Aug 00 | Health
A global smoking battle
14 Jul 00 | Americas
Timeline: The tobacco war
15 Oct 99 | Americas
The US tobacco wars
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