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Tobacco wins in suit by ex-smoker

A jury with five non-smokers ruled Friday that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. wasn't liable for the lung cancer of an ex-smoker.

The former smoker had accused Reynolds of making dangerous, addictive cigarettes and of failing to warn the public about their dangers.

The jury, with four women and two men, deliberated about eight hours over three days before ruling against JoAnn Karbiwnyk, 59, who began smoking on a dare in high school and continued smoking for more than three decades.

She had sought $400,000 in actual damages and an unspecified amount in punitive damage from Reynolds, a Winston-Salem, N.C., company worth $2.7-billion.

Ted Grossman, the lead attorney for Reynolds' team of lawyers, said the jury believed the company's argument that Karbiwnyk made personal decisions to begin smoking and to continue smoking.

"We can't make every choice we make into a lawsuit," Grossman said at a news conference after the verdict.

"For decades, the public has well understood the risks of cigarettes," he said, adding that Karbiwnyk ignored warnings and continued to smoke.

Norwood "Woody" Wilner, who represented Karbiwnyk, characterized his loss as another step in his crusade against big tobacco companies.

"We're sorry, but battles must be lost before a war is won and the war will be won in Jacksonville and other locations," Wilner said.

A year ago, Wilner won what is so far the only major victory for an individual with a $750,000 judgment on behalf of Grady Carter, a cancer-stricken former air traffic controller, against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. That case is on appeal.

Last spring, however, Wilner lost his first battle against Reynolds, when a jury ruled against the family of Jean Connor, a former smoker who died of lung cancer.

"I'm disappointed, but life goes on," Karbiwnyk said after the verdict.