Saturday, May 22, 2004

Big Tobacco ordered to pay $590M

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - A state court jury Friday ordered the tobacco industry to pay more than $590 million for nicotine patches, telephone hot lines, advertising and other programs to help Louisiana smokers kick the habit.

Legal experts think the verdict marks the first time a jury has found that tobacco companies should pay for such programs.

Tobacco lawyers said they would immediately appeal, and the case could drag on for years in the courts before Big Tobacco spends actually any money on the programs. The next and final phase of the trial will determine how the programs will run..

The verdict by a jury in state civil district court in Orleans Parish covers hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents who smoked before the mid-1990s, when the suit was filed. None of the smokers in the suit can get individual damages.

The case is one of several lawsuits filed against tobacco companies in recent years.

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