Judge rules that smoker's death was from addiction to cigarettes
A jury in Florida ruled earlier today that a man who died of lung cancer in 1997 at the age of 55, died from his addiction to cigarettes - this could be a major setback for the cigarette company Philip Morris as this could be the first of thousands of cases like this one.
There are about 8,000 cases like this filed after the Florida Supreme Court's landmark decision in 2006 to throw out a class-action lawsuit from the early 1990s by Howard Engle on behalf of thousands of smokers who were sick.
"The message here is that justice is slow sometimes, but it comes," said Alex Alvarez, an attorney for Elaine Hess.
The ruling came in the first phase of what could be a three-phase trial. Lawyers for Hess were initially required to show that Hess' death was caused by addiction to cigarettes.
"We showed that. The next phase is to decide (compensatory) damages and our entitlement to punitive damages," Alvarez said, adding that the jury can assign a percentage of liability to the tobacco company and to the smoker.