Ore. jury awards $25M in smoker’s death

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon jury has awarded $25 million in punitive damages in the death of a Salem smoker whose family sued tobacco company Philip Morris over its low-tar cigarettes.

The Oregonian reports (http://is.gd/d8Lhvo ) that the award announced Thursday is the second time a jury has considered punitive damages in the 1999 death of Michelle Schwarz, who died of lung cancer that spread.

In 2002, another Multnomah County jury in Portland awarded the family $150 million, later reduced by the trial judge to $100 million. In 2010, the Oregon Supreme Court vacated the $100 million award and sent the case back to the trial court for reconsideration of the punitive damages.

A Schwarz family lawyer, Chuck Tauman, says a final resolution is likely years away.

Murray Garnick is a senior vice president with a component of Philip Morris’ parent company Altria Group Inc. In a statement, Garnick said the new award is “unconstitutionally excessive and violates Supreme Court decisions limiting punitive damages awards.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com