Jury deliberating in Fla. tobacco trial

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- A jury is deliberating a key phase in the first of 8,000 Florida lawsuits blaming health problems and deaths on tobacco companies.

The six-person Broward County jury must decide whether Stuart Hess was addicted to cigarette nicotine before he got lung cancer and died. If so, the jury would later decide any damages against the Philip Morris tobacco company.

The lawsuit by widow Elaine Hess is the first to go to trial since the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 threw out a $145 billion class-action jury award, ruling that each case had to be proven individually.

Hess' lawyers said Thursday he was hopelessly addicted to nicotine. The lawyer for Philip Morris said Hess chose not to quit despite known health risks.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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