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A jury returned a landmark tobacco verdict in a big tobacco case against Lorillard Inc. The world's third largest tobacco company was sued by Marie Evans and her estate after she allegedly became hooked on cigarettes as a child. Evans claimed that a person known as the "Cigarette Man" would come to her housing project and give free cigarettes to kids. According to her attorneys, it was part of a diabolical plan to get customers hooked at an early age and then keep them for the rest of their lives. Evan's died at the age of 54 from lung cancer after smoking a pack and a half a day for decades, Boston.com reports.
Legal pundits had questioned whether such a case had a chance of being successful. The events giving rise to the incident happened around 1957, and Congress did not even require a warning label on cigarettes until 1969.
However, it was illegal in 1957 to give free cigarettes to children in Massachusetts. Still, it seemed to be an insurmountable task to establish sufficient evidence in the case with over 50 years passing. The "Cigarette Man" was obviously nowhere to be found, so the evidence was murky at best.
However, not only did the Massachusetts jury agree with the legal theory brought by Evans and her estate, they really stuck it to Lorillard Inc., with the total verdict coming in at $152 million. It is believed to be the largest tobacco related compensatory award delivered by a jury in a wrongful death lawsuit that is still standing. Whether it will remain standing is another question, as Lorillard will appeal the tobacco verdict.
"The system worked ... I feel like promises we made to Marie Evans eight years ago were kept. I'm thinking about Marie Evans, who, three weeks before she died, sat for three days of depositions because she wanted to tell her story. She told her story, and the jury heard it," lead plaintiff's attorney, Michael Weisman of Davis, Malm & D'Agostine, told Boston.com.