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Massachusetts Wrongful Death Suit Against Tobacco Company Goes to Jury

Lawyers made their closing arguments in Suffolk Superior Court Monday in the first case targeting a cigarette-maker’s past practice of giving out free samples.

The attorney for the estate of Marie Evans, a Boston woman who started smoking at 13, said that the cigarette company tried to hook black children and that Evans was seduced by the samples starting when she was 9 years old. The lawyer for North Carolina-based cigarette manufacturer Lorillard, Inc. argued that the manufacturer should not be held accountable because Evans continued to smoke after learning of the health risks, receiving warnings from doctors, and suffering a heart attack 15 years ago.

Evans died of lung cancer in 2002 at the age of 54. She had been smoking Newports for 40 years. Her son, William Evans, is representing her estate in this Massachusetts wrongful death action. The trial began last month.

Many lawsuits have been brought against tobacco companies to hold them responsible for personal injury and wrongful death. These suits have been brought not only by individuals but also by government officials. They tend to involve products liability, strict liability and civil rights (for example, marketing to African Americans). The usual defenses are contributory (or in Massachusetts, comparative) negligence and the common law doctrine of “volenti non fit injuria,” which means “to a willing person, no injury is done.”

Sources:
The Boston Herald, Boston cigarette lawsuit heads to jury

The Boston Globe, Jury is asked to find tobacco company liable in woman’s death

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