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Jury awards family $152 million in damages over smoking wrongful death

From Sally Garner, CNN
Marie Evans as a little girl in this family photo.
Marie Evans as a little girl in this family photo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Jurors listened to a video deposition from Evans recorded three weeks before her death
  • A Massachusetts court adds $81 million in punitive damages
  • The court ruled that Lorillard lured children into smoking by providing free cigarettes
  • Marie Evans died at age 54 after suffering from small cell lung cancer

Boston, Massachusetts (CNN) -- A Massachusetts court added $81 million in punitive damages Thursday to $71 million in compensatory damages it had already awarded to the family of a woman who died of lung cancer.

Suffolk Superior Court ruled earlier this week that Lorillard Tobacco Company lured black children into smoking by providing them free cigarettes.

The plaintiff, Willie Evans, said the company handed out Newport cigarettes to children like his mother, Marie Evans, during the late 1950s and early 1960s in the Orchard Park neighborhood of Boston.

"It's certainly bittersweet," Evans said. "If I had my choice, I would have preferred the tobacco company not to have given my mother cigarettes as a 9-year-old child."

Marie Evans died at age 54 after suffering from small cell lung cancer, according to the criminal complaint.

Her family said that Lorillard "developed techniques to manipulate and control the nicotine delivery of its cigarettes so as to create and sustain addiction in smokers, including Marie Evans." according to the complaint.

Lorillard says those claims are unfounded.

The company is the third largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States, according to a company statement.

It said it plans to appeal.

"Lorillard respectfully disagrees with the jury's verdict and denies the plaintiff's claim that the company sampled to children or adults at Orchard Park in the early 1960s," said spokesman Gregg Perry.

Jurors listened to a video deposition from Evans recorded three weeks before her death in 2002 in which she described receiving cigarettes from Lorillard when she was a child.

"Hopefully this does allow other people to come forward, and gives them confidence to move their cases forward," Evans said after tearfully embracing his attorney when the verdict was read.

But Lorillard contends that Evans' "50-year-old memories were persuasively contradicted by testimony from several witnesses," Perry said.

The jury had deliberated for approximately two hours on Thursday, after listening to expert financial and forensic testimony.

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