BOSTON — A Boston jury, which had already found a tobacco company responsible for the lung cancer death of a Roxbury woman, has more than doubled the financial penalty. Tobacco company Lorillard, Inc., was accused of handing out free cigarettes to Marie Evans and other kids in the 1950s and 60s.
On top of $71 million in compensatory damages it awarded earlier this week, the jury has now decided Lorillard should also pay $81 million in punitive damages to the family of Marie Evans.
Her son, Will Evans, is a lawyer himself and filed the lawsuit back in 2002, before his mother died. He spoke with WBUR about the case, and said it was his mother who kept him going.
“She had felt strongly about the wrong that was done to her, and one of the last things that she did in the weeks prior to her death was to give her deposition, give her testimony,” Evans said. “And so it was really fulfilling what she had already started.”
Evans said that he had a “steep burden” to prove that the tobacco company in question did in fact hand out cigarettes to Evans and other children 45 years ago. And he said his mother, despite becoming a life-long smoker, did attempt to stop smoking numerous times.
“My mom, throughout her lifetime, certainly made — probably, I’d say more than 50 — attempts to quit smoking through various means. I mean, she tried pretty much everything: from the pills, to patches, to gums, to cessation programs, to hypnotism, to group counseling to individual counseling…” Evans said.
“So really, I mean, she tried everything within her means to stop smoking and simply was addicted and was unable to do that.”
At issue in this case, and in many cigarette cases, is whether it is the fault of the cigarette company or the smoker that cancer develops in that individual because they continue to smoke throughout their lifetime.
The estate’s lawyer, Michael Weisman, rebutted the company’s claims that Evans was responsible for her own addiction.
“To blame Marie Evans for becoming addicted as a young child is silly and foolish, and against medical science,” Weisman said.
Lorillard, Inc. has said it will appeal the verdict.