Wednesday, March 31, 1999 Published at 04:45 GMT 05:45 UK
Tobacco company loses record case
Company and smoking victim were each found 50% negligent
A jury in Oregon has ordered the tobacco company, Philip Morris, to pay record damages to the family of a man who died of lung cancer in 1997.
Jesse Williams died at 67, five months after he was diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma of the lungs, leaving behind a wife and six adult children.
The company's share price plummeted after the verdict.
The family had sued for $100m but did not get the full amount because the jury found Jesse Williams himself 50% guilty of negligence.
Financial analysts say this latest case suggest that juries in America are starting to punish the tobacco industry, and it could open the door to more such suits.
Company to appeal
Philip Morris said the ruling was the product of passion and prejudice.
"Pretty clearly there were errors in the case," Philip Morris lawyer Walter Cofer told American television. "We certainly will appeal."
BBC Washington correspondent Katty Kay says precedents suggest that the company has a chance of escaping the payment.
So far in America, all verdicts of damages against cigarette manufacturers have been overturned at appeal.
Money from the deal, the biggest civil settlement in US legal history, is earmarked to pay for treatment for smoking-related illnesses and to launch a programme to discourage young people from smoking.