updated 2/2/2006 12:53:04 PM ET 2006-02-02T17:53:04

The Oregon Supreme Court upheld on Thursday a $79.5 million punitive damages award to the family of an Oregon smoker who died of lung cancer, saying the amount isn’t excessive given the “reprehensible” conduct of tobacco giant Philip Morris in marketing cigarettes.

The decision upholds a lower court ruling and responds to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that asked Oregon courts to consider whether the award in the lawsuit against Philip Morris, a unit of Altria Group Inc., was excessive.

The state Supreme Court said it was not excessive, given “such extreme and outrageous circumstances.”

The decision upholds a 1999 award by a county court jury of $79.5 million in punitive damages to the family of Jesse D. Williams, a janitor who died in 1997 of lung cancer at the age of 67.

The man’s family also got $500,000 in non-economic damages, to compensate for pain and suffering.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Oregon courts to review the award to ensure it was not unconstitutionally excessive under new standards for punitive damages adopted by the high court.

A state appeals court said in 2004 that the award wasn’t excessive, and the state Supreme Court decision upholds that decision.

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