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A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury Wednesday 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 the 18-page verdict was announced. Jurors found against the tobacco maker on all six counts of fraud, negligence and making a defective product, awarding Boeken $3 billion in punitive damages and $5.5 million in general damages. “We thought that figure would hurt them, make them stand up and take notice,” juror Denise Key said of the punitive damages. “We want them to be responsible, to put on their product that the product will kill, so when you smoke, you smoke at your own risk.” Philip Morris attorney Maurice Leiter said he was disappointed with the verdict and will appeal. “We recognize Philip Morris is an unpopular company. It makes a dangerous product, but clearly, the evidence does not support this verdict,” Leiter said. He said the company believes Boeken ignored “a mountain of information” about the health risks of smoking and chose to continue his habit. Boeken’s attorney, Michael Piuze, expressed satisfaction with the verdict while denouncing the tobacco company. “They’re liars,” he said. “They’ve lied for 50 years. … They lied, lied, lied and lied and lied. Now in 2001, Philip Morris admits that tobacco causes lung cancer.” Boeken had sought more than $12 million in compensatory damages such as medical bills and lost earnings, and between $100 million and $10 billion in punitive damages. He declined to speak to reporters after the hearing. Boeken was diagnosed in 1999 with lung cancer, which has spread to his lymph nodes, back and brain. He took up cigarettes in 1957 at age 13 and was smoking at least two packs of Marlboros every day for more than 40 years. Piuze said his client had kicked heroin and alcohol, but renewed his smoking habit after trying to quit several times. Piuze argued that his client was a victim of a decades-long tobacco industry campaign to promote smoking as “cool,” while the company concealed the serious dangers of smoking. During closing arguments, Piuze said Philip Morris is “the world’s biggest drug dealer, something that puts the Colombian drug cartels to shame.” Attorneys for Philip Morris didn’t deny that smoking caused Boeken’s illness but argued that he ignored health warnings about the dangers of cigarettes and chose to smoke despite the risk. “He made a choice to smoke, period,” Leiter said during closing arguments. The jury began deliberations on May 22. During the seven-week trial, jurors were presented evidence that included company memos and videotaped depositions from Boeken and clips of tobacco company executives’ 1994 congressional testimony. The award dwarfs the previous record set in another case against Philip Morris. An Oregon jury in 1999 awarded $80.3 million in punitive and compensatory damages to the family of Jesse Williams. Shares of Philip Morris finished regular trading Wednesday at $50, down 83 cents. In after-hours trading, shares fell $1.75 to $48.25. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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