California Widow Wins Lawsuit Against Cigarette Company

A jury this week found that Lorillard Tobacco Co.’s cigarettes contributed to the death of a Palos Verdes Estates man, but the amount the company must pay to his widow was not immediately clear.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for a day before finding in favor of Tajie Major, the widow of longtime smoker William “Earl” Major. He died in July 1998 of lung cancer.

The jury found Major had damages totaling $17.7 million. But the panel also apportioned responsibility at 17 percent for Lorillard, 50 percent for William Major and 33 percent to cigarettes he smoked that were made by other manufacturers.

The negligence lawsuit filed in November 2011, alleged that Lorillard put sales over safety in marketing its cigarettes, a strategy that Major maintained helped lead to the death of her spouse at age 55.

Documents dating back to the 1970s show the companies researchers were aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking, as well as the addictive nature of nicotine.

The Kent cigarette packs, manufactured by Lorillard, were labeled with warnings, as were the other cigarettes Major smoked, Marlboro and Winston, manufactured by Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., respectively. R.J. Reynolds is seeking to acquire Lorillard.

The widow sued the other two tobacco companies along with Lorillard, but her claims against them were dismissed shortly before trial.

What do you think of this verdict? Feel free to comment on this blog post. For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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