Marie Evans of Roxbury, pictured with her son, Willie, died shortly after at age 54.
(Photo Courtesy of The Evans Family)
BOSTON - A Suffolk Superior Court jury has slammed Lorillard Tobacco Company in the first tobacco trial in Massachusetts in a generation. The case, Evans v. Lorillard, involved a wrongful death claim brought by the son of a woman who was repeatedly provided with free samples of Newport cigarettes near the playground of the Orchard Park housing project in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston in the late 1950s. The woman, Marie Evans, was addicted by the time she was 13 years old and, despite many quit attempts, was unable to stop smoking. She died at the age of 54 in 2002 and her videotaped deposition was seen by the jury of 14.
Initial reports are that Lorillard was found liable for $50 million to Ms. Evans’ estate and for $21 million to her only son, Willie, for loss of companionship.
It was also reported that a one-day hearing on possible punitive damages against Lorillard will be held on Thursday, December 16. The jury will reconvene and deliberate following that hearing.
The trial has taken place while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to extend the ban on flavored cigarettes to include menthol. Experts testified at the trial and before an FDA panel that menthol anesthetizes the lung and facilitates smoking initiation.
The Evans estate was represented by Michael D. Weisman of the Boston firm of Davis, Malm & D’Agostine, P.C..
Mark Gottlieb, Director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law noted: “While the practice of providing samples of menthol cigarettes to children in the predominantly African-American portion of a public housing project is particularly egregious, it is not terribly different from what still goes on today. 75% of African-Americans prefer menthol brands and logo and price promotions continue to target that market. More than 60% of cancer mortality among African-American men is attributable to tobacco use.”
Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project, Edward L. Sweda, Jr., added, “It is gratifying to see that this American jury saw fit to hold a large, corporate wrongdoer accountable, if only financially, for its decades-long reprehensible misconduct.”