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The Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to let Philip Morris USA delay paying $10.5 million in damages to a former smoker in California while the tobacco company contests the amount. The company had been sued by Patricia Henley, who smoked for 35 years starting at age 15 and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997. In September, the California Supreme Court refused to reduce the $10.5 million award, which Philip Morris claimed was excessive. The Richmond, Va.-based unit of Altria Group Inc. of New York is appealing to the Supreme Court. Wednesday’s order by the high court, which prevents Henley from collecting any money until the matter is resolved by justices, indicated that all nine court members participated, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Rehnquist was hospitalized last week with thyroid cancer. Altria shares rose $1.03 cents, more than 2 percent, to close at $48.03 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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