updated 3/5/2005 12:12:28 AM ET 2005-03-05T05:12:28

A jury on Friday cleared tobacco maker Philip Morris of liability in the death of a man who smoked for 35 years and alleged the company misled him by failing to acknowledge the habit was addictive and caused cancer.

Fredric Reller, 64, first sued Philip Morris in November 2001. A jury cleared the nation’s biggest cigarette maker last August of negligence and misrepresentation in the lawsuit, but deadlocked on one count claiming the company fraudulently concealed the dangers of smoking.

Reller died shortly after that verdict, but his widow sought a rehearing on the one deadlocked count and added a count alleging wrongful death. She asked for damages of more than $17 million.

The second trial started Jan. 11, and jury deliberations began Thursday.

Based on evidence at the trial, “it was clear that the plaintiff’s husband made an informed decision as to whether to smoke,” said William S. Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris vice president and associate general counsel.

Reller’s attorney, Michael Piuze, said he was disappointed by the verdict.

“In his videotaped testimony taken before his death, he admitted that he was ashamed and embarrassed that he had believed Philip Morris’ lies and deceit that there was no valid scientific proof that their cigarettes caused lung cancer,” Piuze said.

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