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Jury adds $81M to award

Jury adds $81M to award

By Ira Kantor  |   Friday, December 17, 2010  |  |  Local Coverage

A Suffolk Superior Court jury awarded another $81 million in punitive damages yesterday to the estate and son of a lifelong Roxbury smoker after determining tobacco giant Lorillard, Inc. enticed her and other neighborhood children to smoke by passing out free cigarettes.

The verdict came two days after the same jury awarded the estate of Marie Evans $50 million in compensatory damages and her son, Willie Evans, $21 million.

“The jury understood that what Lorillard had done to addict kids was really evil,” said Tom Frisardi, co-counsel representing the Evans estate and Willie Evans in the case. “This jury understood that for some people, addiction is a problem that they simply won’t overcome — even very, very strong-willed people. That’s what the cigarette companies are counting on to keep their business going, and I think this jury was exceptional and understood all of that.”

Willie Evans and his mother’s estate claimed Marie Evans received free Newport cigarettes at age 9 from the Greenboro, N.C.-based company while living in Roxbury’s Orchard Park housing project. She initially gave them to her older sisters or traded them for candy.

A smoker since age 13, Marie Evans died in 2002 at age 54 from lung cancer.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first in the country to accuse a cigarette maker of targeting black children by giving away cigarettes in urban neighborhoods, according to experts.

Willie Evans could not be reached for comment last night.

Lorillard spokesman Gregg Perry declined to comment yesterday, referring to a company statement issued Tuesday: “Lorillard respectfully disagrees with the jury’s verdict and denies the plaintiff’s claim that the company sampled to children or adults at Orchard Park in the early 1960s. The plaintiff’s 50-year-old memories were persuasively contradicted by testimony from several witnesses. The company will appeal and is confident it will prevail once the Massachusetts Court of Appeals reviews this case.”

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