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CNN Today

Big Tobacco on Trial

Aired April 7, 2000 - 2:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A major development in Miami at this hour in the landmark Florida smoker's trial. The jury has found that smoking indeed caused the cancer for the three plaintiffs.

More on the case from CNN's John Zarrella.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than a year and a half of courtroom battling, the tobacco industry has held fast to its first line of defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These case are about individual medical conditions, individual choices, individual smoking behavior, individual responsibility.

ZARRELLA: Smokers, the industry steadfastly maintains, must be held accountable for their actions. In phase two of the landmark class-action lawsuit against five tobacco companies, the jury heard the stories of three smokers with cancer. They were the cases chosen to represent the class, estimated at half a million sick Florida smokers.

The testimony of plaintiff Angie Deleveccio (ph) was on tape. She died before getting into court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had you been diagnosed with any disease that you believed to have been caused from smoking cigarettes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, February 1997 I was diagnosed with lung cancer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: The jury's job was to decide how much money, if any, the three smokers or surviving relatives should be awarded. The claim: more than $13 million for pain and suffering, lost income and medical bills.

(on camera): The case would never have gotten this far had this same jury not ruled against the tobacco industry last July in phase one of the trial. The jurors found the industry misled people about the health risks from smoking.

(voice-over): And the jury ruled the tobacco industry had sold a defective product that caused deadly illnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, including emphysema, yes.

ZARRELLA: Based on that verdict, the jury was expected to find in favor of the three individual plaintiffs, and then move on to awarding a lump sum to the entire class, potentially hundreds of billions of dollars.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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