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Anti-tobacco lawyers are hoping a long-awaited check for damages — the first ever paid to a smoker in a tobacco liability case — will be just one of many. And for Grady Carter, a 70-year-old retired air traffic controller, the check is at least no longer in the mail. On March 8, Carter collected on a 1995 verdict against the Louisville, Ky.-based Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., which makes the Lucky Strike cigarettes that he blamed for causing him to lose a lung to cancer. The historic $1.1 million check — a wire transfer, actually — is in payment of Carter’s $750,000 verdict, with interest. Norwood S. “Woody” Wilner of Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell & Matthews in Jacksonville, Fla., called Carter “an American hero,” and predicted that other lawyers will be encouraged by “the idea that, with a client that has courage, they can take on the tobacco industry and win.” Since the 1995 verdict, Brown & Williamson has pulled out the stops to avoid having to pay, succeeding in having the verdict reversed, on statute-of-limitations grounds, in 1998. But the Florida Supreme Court, which has ruled against the industry in several important cases, reinstated the verdict in November. Carter’s award was finally freed up after the court rejected a move by Brown & Williamson to have it held in escrow while the company asks the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. John Finley, a lawyer for the cigarette maker, said it will argue that Carter’s claim was pre-empted by the federal law that requires a printed warning on cigarette packages. “We’d advise Carter not to spend the money,” said Mark Smith, a Brown & Williamson spokesman. After nearly half a century of tobacco lawsuits, and billions committed to settling suits by state governments in recent years, no tobacco company had ever paid an individual smoker for a tobacco-related injury. There have been a handful of verdicts for smokers in recent years, but all have either been reversed or are still on appeal. TOBACCO BATTLEFIELD Florida has been a hotbed of tobacco litigation in recent years. In addition to the Carter case and others tried by Wilner, Miami lawyers Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt settled a class action in 1997 for $349 million on behalf of flight attendants claiming injuries from secondhand smoke. And last year, the Rosenblatts won a stunning $145 billion punitive damage verdict against the tobacco industry, now on appeal. In 1997, the industry settled the state of Florida’s health care cost-recovery action for $13 million. Enemies of Big Tobacco hope the award will help further dispel what had been the industry’s aura of courtroom invincibility. “These cases should be treated just like any other case,” said Richard A. Daynard, a Northeastern University School of Law professor and longtime anti-tobacco advocate.

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