Will the successful lawsuit against a tobacco manufacturer in the States mean that pay-outs are likely in the UK

01:00 Mon 11th Jun 2001 |

asks Allan:
You're talking about Richard Boeken, a 56-year-old securities dealer from Los Angeles who had smoked since he was 13 and now has lung and other cancers. He successfully sued cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris and was awarded $3 billion (about �2.1 billion).

Q. That's a lot of money...
That's what Philip Morris think. So do all the other cigarette manufacturers who watched their share prices drop sharply as a result.

Q. Why was he awarded so much
The $3 billion, which works out at about $120,000 for every packet of fags he got through, was designed to make Philip Morris sit up and take notice. One juror said that they wanted to make Phillip Morris 'take responsibility' for their product: another said: 'We thought that figure would hurt them.'

Q. Didn't the cigarette manufacturer plead guilty
Yes, the company acknowledged that it had been wrong in the past. Nevertheless, the jury found the company guilty on all six of charges, including fraud, conspiracy and negligence.

Q. And wasn't Richard Boeken a bit of an addictive type anyway
Well, he'd kicked previous addictions to heroin and alcohol, but her just couldn't break the cigarette habit, which he'd had since he was 13.

Q. Is this the highest amount ever paid out in such a case
Yes, to an individual. The US tobacco industry has been told to pay individual states �133 billion to recover health cost claims, and �110 billion was awarded to thousands of smokers in Florida.

And, this is the third time a big tobacco company has lost a case in California.

Q. Isn't California the state where the only place you're free to smoke is in your car
Just about. The state's attitude to smoking and health has brought its levels of smoking and lung cancer to the lowest in the US.

Q. Could massive pay-outs happen here
The actual amount of money is likely to be reduced on appeal, but the fact that it succeeded at all� may increase the chances of similar litigation succeeding in Britain, according to Action on Smoking and Health director Clive Bates.

Previously, in March 1999, a UK case involving 50 smokers with lung cancer failed, because the judge ruled that the claims had not been made within the statutory three years allowed between diagnosis and starting legal action.

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By Sheena MIller

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