Jury awards no damages in smoking death

July 20, 2011 at 3:54 PM
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., July 20 (UPI) -- A Florida jury has held tobacco companies partly responsible for a woman's death but awarded her husband nothing.

Jerry Weingart, 89, of Boynton Beach sought at least $3.5 million from R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and Lorillard for his wife Claire's lung cancer death in 1997, asserting they fed her cigarette habit.

On Tuesday, a Palm Beach County jury found the companies each 3 percent responsible for her death but awarded no damages.

"It certainly is an unusual verdict to find fault by the three defendants but not to award a penny for pain and suffering," Weingart's attorney, Jack Hill, said.

Judge Glenn Kelley ruled the jury had reached "an inadequate verdict," allowing Hill to seek a new trial or ask him to overrule the jury and order damages.

Jury foreman Edward Musco explained the jury's thinking to The Palm Beach Post: "The general consensus was that it was her choice."

He noted that Claire Weingart kept smoking after her father died of lung cancer, after she was diagnosed with melanoma and even after her cancer spread to her brain.

The suit is among 8,000 brought after the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 threw out a $145 billion jury award in a tobacco class-action suit.

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