Legal Issue

Whether Defendant Lorillard was denied a fair trial;  the trial court erred in denying Lorillard’s post-trial motions; and the award of compensatory and punitive damage was fair.


In 2004, Plaintiff Willie Evans, the executor of the estate of his mother, Marie Evans, alleged that Lorillard Tobacco Co., which distributed free Newport cigarettes to his mother and other children near a neighborhood playground, was grossly negligent in marketing its product to minors and engaged in a campaign to target them, among other claims. Marie Evans began smoking Lorillard's Newport brand in 1960 and died in 2002 from lung cancer. Plaintiff Evans sued for fraud and misrepresentation, breach of a voluntarily undertaken duty, breach of implied warranty, public nuisance, battery, violation of G.L. c. 93A, § 9, negligence, and wrongful death.

Following a 14-day jury trial in late 2010, the jury found for Plaintiff on each of the surviving claims and awarded $71 million in compensatory and $81 million in punitive damages. The court assessed prejudgment interest on both awards and, finding for Plaintiff on the Chapter 93A claim, awarded Plaintiff attorneys’ fees. In determining the Chapter 93A claim, the court, as an alternative basis, granted preclusive effect to the decision of the District Court in U.S. v. Philip Morris on certain factual findings.

Defendant Lorillard moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a new trial, remittitur, and amendment of the Chapter 93A decision. The court granted the remittitur in part, reducing compensatory damages to $35 million, and denied all other post-trial motions. On June 8, 2012, Defendant Lorillard filed an appeal with the Supreme Judicial Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

On November 7, 2012, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium submitted an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Judicial Court to affirm the trial court’s decision and uphold its grant of preclusive effect to the decision of the District Court in U.S. v. Philip Morris in support of the judgment in favor of the Plaintiff on his Chapter 93A complaint.  The Consortium argued that the Court’s exercise of its discretion to apply that case preclusively was correct under the criteria established by the Supreme Court.  Furthermore, the trial court judge was within the proper exercise of her discretion when she found that giving U.S. v. Philip Morris preclusive effect was fair to the defendant.


On appeal, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated the jury's $81 million punitive damages award, while upholding the $35 million compensatory portion and statutory interest dating to the suit's 2004 filing.  On Oct. 23, 2013, Lorillard Tobacco Co. paid $79 million to settle the case, securing the dismissal of all claims from the estate of Marie Evans and averting a looming retrial on punitive damages.

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