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Thousands of ailing Florida smokers to split $600 million tobacco fund

Thousands of sick smokers in Florida could be eligible for money from a $600 million fund in a landmark Miami-Dade County case against the country’s five largest tobacco companies.Tobacco companies agreed to create the trust fund in 2001 to avoid posting a bond as they appealed a Miami-Dade jury’s July 2000 verdict. The jury awarded ill smokers and their families $145 billion, which was thought to be the biggest punitive award in American legal history. Whether the tobacco companies won or lost their appeals, the money placed in the trust fund was set aside for sick smokers covered under the class-action case and their attorneys’ fees.The Florida Supreme Court threw out the jury’s verdict in 2006, deeming it excessive.To be eligible for money from the trust fund, a smoker must have been a Florida resident before or on Nov. 21, 1996 and be able to document having symptoms of a cigarette-related illness before that date. Families of deceased smokers can put in claims for the money if their loved ones met the requirements, but there can only be one claim per smoker. Full Story,0,1700805.story

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