MIAMI, July 7 -- A Miami jury in the first class-action lawsuit against the tobacco industry ever to go to trial has ruled that cigarettes cause a number of diseases and has held the industry responsible for those illnesses. About 500,000 sick Florida smokers or the survivors of the dead are seeking $200 billion from cigarette makers.
The jury also ruled today that cigarettes are addictive, and that cigarette companies concealed and misrepresented the dangers of smoking. The jurors will now be called back for another proceeding to determine damages. The plaintiffs claimed the tobacco industry deceived them into beginning a habit -- cigarette smoking -- that they were unable to quit. The jury said 20 diseases on a list of 23 were caused by smoking. The verdict came a year and a day after jury selection began in the case. The six jurors have been hearing evidence for eight months. Circuit Judge Robert Kaye took nearly a half-hour to read the complicated verdict. Attorneys for the industry maintain the health risks of smoking were well known, and those who made a decision to smoke knew of the dangers involved. The six jurors and 10 alternates were selected last July, and opening statements were delivered on Oct. 19. Closing arguments were spread over four days last month, and the case went to the jury on June 28. The plaintiffs' case was fought by attorneys Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, who previously had won a settlement of $349 million for flight attendants who charged they were made ill by secondhand smoke. ---
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