Tobacco suit

Company seeks dismissal of case brought by family

A judge delayed ruling yesterday on Lorillard Tobacco Co.'s request that she reject a lawsuit accusing the nation's third-largest tobacco company of targeting black youth in its cigarette marketing.

Judge Linda Giles of Suffolk Superior Court told lawyers for both sides that she wanted to review the case filings as well as previous court cases before ruling on Lorillard's request.

"I have reviewed your submissions," Giles told the lawyers. "I have not digested them."

The 2004 lawsuit was filed by Will Evans, the son of Marie Evans, who died of lung cancer in 2002 at age 54. Lawyers for the family say the Greensboro, N.C.-based company should be held responsible for Marie Evans's exposure to cigarettes from the time she was 9 and for her eventual addiction to tobacco.

Attorneys for Lorillard argued at yesterday's hearing that the family has not presented enough evidence to prove the company is responsible for her 40-year smoking addiction and the effect it had on her health.

The case is thought to be the first lawsuit to accuse a tobacco company of targeting black youth in its marketing.

The judge said that if she decides to allow the case to go forward, the trial will begin Nov. 1.

According to the plaintiff’s lawyers, Marie Evans started getting free Newport cigarettes in her Roxbury neighborhood when she was 9, initially trading the cigarettes for candy, then smoking them when she turned 13. As a child, she was too young to recognize the dangers of smoking and was lured into the habit by Lorillard advertising, the lawyers say.

The plaintiff’s lawyers also asserted yesterday that Lorillard committed battery against Evans when she was offered cigarettes as a child. Attorney Rebecca McIntyre said sales people who frequently distributed cigarettes in her neighborhood wore shirts with Newport's colors on them and sometimes arrived in a van that carried the Newport logo.

But Lorillard attorney Andrew McElaney said, "There is no evidence in this case that will support the finding that Lorillard Tobacco Co. gave Marie Evans cigarettes."

In addition, he said, the lawsuit should have been filed within three years of a heart attack Marie Evans suffered in 1985, to meet the statute of limitations.

Besides Newport, Lorillard also makes Kent, True, Old Gold, Maverick, and Max cigarettes.

(Published by The Boston Globe - August 17, 2010)

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