Jury awards Delray Beach man $2 million from
tobacco companies for wife's death from smoking
May 2, 2013
A 91-year-old Delray Beach widower today won a $2 million verdict from a Palm Beach County jury that agreed three of the nation's biggest cigarette-makers caused the death of his 81-year-old wife.
Jurors held Helen Cohen 40 percent responsible for her inability to quit the habit that led to her 2006 death from lung cancer. That means David Cohen's award will be reduced by $800,000.
"Justice has been served," the smiling spry nonagenarian said outside the courtroom.
Attorney Scott Schlesinger, who represented Cohen during the nearly month-long trial, praised his elderly client for toughing it out against great odds.
"More people have climbed Mount Everest than have gotten verdicts against tobacco companies," he said.
Attorneys for R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard and Liggett declined comment. Phillip Morris was not held responsible for Cohen's death. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Meenu Sasser ruled that the mother of two rarely smoked its brands.
The tobacco giants are expected to appeal as they have done consistently since cases stemming from a 1994 class-action lawsuit began going to trial several years ago.
While a Miami jury agreed the tobacco industry should pay $145 billion to smokers and their families, the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 threw out the award. While upholding the jury's findings that cigarettes are addictive, defective and cause a plethora of health ills, it ruled that damages had to be determined individually.
With thousands of cases pending throughout the state, today's verdict means 78 have gone to trial, according to the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University. Of those, 54 ended in awards for smokers or their families; the rest were won by cigarette-makers. So far in Palm Beach County, three families of smokers have won multi-million-dollar verdicts. Two other cases ended with jurors deciding in favor of tobacco companies.
May 3, 2013 - Sun Sentinel
May 3, 2013 - Palm Beach Post
May 6, 2013 - Daily Business Review
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