A jury awarded $350,000 to a woman who blamed a tobacco company after her husband — a smoker for more than four decades — died of lung cancer.
It was the first time a jury in New York state awarded damages against a tobacco company, lawyers said.
Gladys Frankson, whose husband, Harry, began smoking in 1954 at age 13, won the damages in state Supreme Court on Thursday. The jury also determined that punitive damages will be assessed against the defendant, the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., which makes Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Harry Frankson died in 1999 after years of trying — and failing — to quit smoking, his family's lawyer Michael London said. He had been diagnosed the year before with lung cancer stemming from his use of the unfiltered cigarettes, London said.
After his death, his wife sued, charging that the original manufacturer of Lucky Strikes, the American Tobacco Co., failed to warn its customers about the dangers of smoking. American Tobacco merged with Brown & Williamson in 1995.
"What the jury found was that the company was denying for years that the cigarettes are addictive and that they cause lung cancer," London said.
An attorney for Brown & Williamson, Gareth Cooper, said Frankson "knew and understood the risks of smoking." He added that "we have strong arguments for appeal and are confident that this decision will be reversed."
The family originally asked for $400 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages. A hearing to determine punitive damages will be held Jan. 7.
Juries in Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, California, Oregon and Kansas have made similar awards.
Brown & Williamson, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., is the nation's third-largest cigarette manufacturer, according to its Web site.