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Florida tobacco product liability suit goes to jury

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., June 9 (Reuters) - A Florida jury began deliberating Tuesday in a product liability lawsuit against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. filed by the family of a long-time smoker who died of lung cancer.

The jury began deliberating at mid-morning Tuesday.

Angela Widdick sued Brown & Williamson over the 1997 death of her father, Roland Maddox. Maddox's family said he had smoked for nearly 50 years, mostly Lucky Strike, made by American Tobacco Co., which merged with Brown & Williamson, a unit of B.A.T Industries Plc

Attorneys for the tobacco companies argued that Maddox was aware of the risks of smoking and had done so nonetheless. They had called as witnesses some of Maddox's former co-workers, who said he had jokingly called cigarettes "coffin nails" and "cancer sticks."

In his closing arguments, Jacksonville attorney Norwood "Woody" Wilner, who represents Maddox's daughter Widdick, told jurors that breaking a habit is different than trying to break an addiction to cigarettes, which he said cause physiological changes in smokers.

Wilner scored the biggest cash verdict against Big Tobacco when he won a $750,000 judgment against Brown & Williamson in 1996 on behalf of a sick smoker.

Maddox's family initially had filed its suit against Brown & Williamson and Liggett Group Inc., a unit of Brooke Group Ltd . Liggett settled the suit for undisclosed terms.

16:14 06-09-98


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