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Brown & Williamson Wins Court Case

May 13, 1999

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A federal jury handed the tobacco industry its second victory in four days Thursday, deciding Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. was not at fault in the case of a man who died of lung cancer in 1995 after smoking Kools.

Charles Steele’s family had sued for $26 million, claiming the nation’s third-largest tobacco company sold him an unreasonably dangerous product.

Jury foreman Gary White said Steele ``was quite aware of the dangers, but the pleasures outweighed the dangers.″

On Monday, a jury in Memphis, Tenn., cleared B&W and two other tobacco companies of liability in the deaths of three smokers.

U.S. juries have awarded damages in smoking liability cases only five times _ twice in Florida and once in New Jersey, Oregon and California. The Florida and New Jersey verdicts were overturned on appeal, while the $51.5 million award in California was halved by a judge. Lawyers are preparing an appeal of the Oregon verdict.

In the Missouri case, B&W argued that Steele never tried to quit smoking and that he was exposed to a host of cancer-causing chemicals through jobs at an aluminum foundry and at a brick-making plant.

The verdict ``reflects recognition by the jury that Brown & Williamson acted responsibly in the processes of researching, testing and designing our products,″ said B&W attorney Steven McCormick.

``The jury’s conclusions are consistent with the majority of court decisions, agreeing that smoking is a matter of personal choice.″

The family’s attorney, J. Michael Cronan, said there will be no appeal.

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