Jury Rules in Tobacco Case
GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ A tobacco company and its distributor were not responsible for a longtime smoker’s death, a jury ruled Thursday.
The children of Anderson Smith Jr. filed a $17 million lawsuit against Pall Mall cigarette manufacturer American Tobacco Co. and a Greenwood distributor, New Deal Tobacco & Candy Co.
Jeanette Wilks and Jessie Bell, Smith’s children, claimed their father’s 1986 death was a result of lung cancer caused by smoking.
But the Washington County jury, after more than two hours of deliberations, sided with American Tobacco Co. and New Deal in an 11-1 decision.
In his instructions before closing arguments Thursday, Circuit Judge Eugene Bogen told jurors they could not consider the plaintiffs’ request for $15 million in punitive damages because the plaintiffs had not offered sufficient proof to justify such a request. Bogen told the jury to limit their deliberations to the plaintiffs’ request for $2 million in compensatory damages.
Attorneys for the Smith family had argued that the tobacco companies knew the dangers of cigarette smoking before warning labels were put on packs in the 1960s.
Tobacco company lawyers said Smith’s death was caused by other factors, including a possible post-operative pulmonary embolism caused by his last surgery which was just 70 hours before he died.
The defense also argued that an autopsy would have been the only way to know for sure what killed Smith. The family, however, had refused to allow an autopsy to be done at the time of Smith’s death.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they were disappointed and may consider an appeal. Bogen kept the jurors from reporters.