US tobacco giant Philip Morris has been ordered by a Florida court to pay eight million dollars to the widow of a lung cancer victim, in a case that could set a precedent for 8,000 similar trials in the southern state.
The jury rejected Elian Hess' demand for 130 million dollars compensation, arguing that her husband Stuart Hess was partly responsible for his death since he smoked three packs a day of Benson & Hedges before he died at age 55 in 1997.
But after nine hours of deliberations the jury ordered the cigarette maker to pay two million dollars in compensatory damages to Elaine Hess, one million to her son David and five million dollars in punitive damages.
Philip Morris has said it will appeal the judgment.
The ruling follows a 2006 judgement from the state's supreme court which struck down a record 145 million dollar punitive award in a class action suit.
Virginia-based Altria, Philip Morris' parent company, vowed it would defend itself vigorously in all court cases.