Jury Favors Phillip Morris in California Lawsuit

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Jury Favors Phillip Morris in California Lawsuit

LOS ANGELES -- After nearly five days of deliberations, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury returned a verdict in favor of the company in a lawsuit brought by Frederic Reller, who had claimed he was unaware of the risks of smoking.

"The jury heard clear and compelling evidence that Mr. Reller was well aware of the risks of smoking and was responsible for the smoking decisions he made," said William Ohlemeyer, Philip Morris USA vice president and associate general counsel. "The jury's decision makes common sense and legal sense."

Plaintiff's attorney Michael Piuze, who has tried two previous smoker's cases in Los Angeles, alleged on behalf of his client that Philip Morris USA had been negligent, had marketed a defective product and had defrauded Reller about the dangers of smoking. The jury rejected all of Reller's claims.

Piuze had asked the jury to award actual damages of approximately $17 million to his client, whose lung cancer is in remission, plus additional punitive damages.

The Reller case was the third smoking case to go to trial in Los Angeles and the first time a jury has returned a defense verdict. Plaintiffs' verdicts in the two previous cases, the Boeken and Bullock cases, are now on appeal.

Philip Morris USA has tried four additional cases in California since 1999 -- two San Francisco plaintiff's verdicts also are on appeal, while trials in Oakland and Sacramento ended with verdicts for the company.