A REAL SMOKING GUN

A California jury Wednesday ordered the Philip Morris Co. to pay a former smoker with inoperable cancer a whopping $50 million in punitive damages, saying the maker of Marlboro cigarettes was to blame for the illness that will take her life. “I’m feeling numb. It was a great jury, and it took a brave jury to make this decision,” plaintiff Patricia Henley, 53, said after the San Francisco jury more than tripled the $15 million she had requested. Lawyers for the biggest U.S. tobacco company said they would appeal the decision, which legal analysts say could open the way for a raft of new individual lawsuits against tobacco companies by sick smokers. (Henley says she intends to donate any reward she receives to organizations that teach children about the lethal dangers of cigarettes.) A smoker since age 15 — who smoked as many as three packs per day — Henley argued that she had become addicted to cigarettes long before tobacco companies began warning consumers about the health dangers of their products.

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