L O S A N G E L E S, June 6, 2001 -- A jury today awarded more than $3 billion to a lifelong smoker, deciding that tobacco giant Philip Morris is responsible for his incurable lung cancer.
Richard Boeken, 56, smiled and gave a thumbs-up sign as the18-page verdict was announced. Jurors found against the tobaccomaker on all six counts of fraud, negligence and making a defectiveproduct, awarding Boeken $3 billion in punitive damages and $5.5million in general damages.
Philip Morris attorney Maurice Leiter said he was disappointedwith the verdict and will appeal.
Boeken had sought more than $12 million in compensatory damagessuch as medical bills and lost earnings, and between $100 millionand $10 billion in punitive damages. He declined to speak toreporters after the hearing.
Started Smoking at 13
Nationwide, juries have awarded damages to individual smokersonly six times. Three verdicts were overturned, two are on appeal,and one was returned last month with a then-record $1.72 million incompensatory damages. The industry has yet to pay anything.
However, the industry has started paying out $246 billion in asettlement with states that sued the industry seeking to recoupcosts spent on treating sick smokers. That settlement did not barlawsuits by individual smokers.
Boeken was diagnosed in 1999 with lung cancer, which has spreadto his lymph nodes, back and brain. He took up cigarettes in 1957at age 13 and was smoking at least two packs of Marlboros every dayfor more than 40 years.
Boeken's attorney, Michael Piuze, said hisclient had kicked heroin and alcohol, but renewed his smoking habitafter trying to quit several times.
Piuze argued that his client was a victim of a decades-longtobacco industry campaign to promote smoking as "cool" but whichconcealed the serious dangers of smoking.
During closing arguments, Piuze said Philip Morris is "theworld's biggest drug dealer, something that puts the Colombian drugcartels to shame."
Tobacco Company: ‘He Made a Choice …’
Attorneys for Philip Morris didn't deny that smoking causedBoeken's illness but argued that he ignored health warnings aboutthe dangers of cigarettes and chose to smoke despite the risk.
"He made a choice to smoke, period," Leiter said duringclosing arguments.
The jury began deliberations on May 22. During the seven-weektrial, jurors were presented evidence that included company memosand videotaped depositions from Boeken and clips of tobacco companyexecutives' 1994 congressional testimony.
The award dwarfs the previous record set in another case againstPhilip Morris. An Oregon jury in 1999 awarded $80.3 million inpunitive and compensatory damages to the family of Jesse Williams.The amount was later reduced to $32 million, and the case is underappeal.