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Australian Smoker Wins Lawsuit

April 11, 2002

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ A woman dying of lung cancer has become the first Australian smoker to win a lawsuit against an international tobacco company.

A six-member Victorian Supreme Court jury on Thursday ordered London-based British American Tobacco to pay 51-year-old Rolah Ann McCabe 710,000 Australian dollars ($376,000). The cigarette maker must also pay her legal costs.

The company said it would appeal the decision, but declined to comment further.

McCabe was diagnosed with the disease in 1999. She was awarded the money for pain and suffering as well as medical and home care expenses and loss of earnings.

Physicians earlier testified that she would probably die before the end of the year.

Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Eames criticized the company and its lawyers for destroying and hiding documents relevant to the case.

He said a company policy known as ``document retention″ begun in 1985 ``was to provide a means of destroying damaging documents under the cover of an apparently innocent housekeeping arrangement.″

Outside the court, McCabe said the company had lied about the effects of smoking, which she had taken up as a child because she thought it was ``cool.″

``I was 12. They knew it caused cancer and they knew it was addictive,″ she told reporters. ``I want to say to young girls today, don’t make my mistake _ don’t get sucked in by the tobacco companies.″

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