NEW YORK (CNNfn) - A Florida jury found the nation's largest tobacco producers liable for damages in a landmark class action suit Wednesday, ruling the industry misled consumers and caused deadly diseases.
The six-member jury deliberated seven days before ruling against six tobacco companies -- including R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, two of the nation's largest tobacco producers -- and two defunct industry groups.
The plaintiffs, who include thousands of sick Florida smokers, are seeking up to $200 billion in damages. The amount will be determined later by the jury.
Once a decision on damages is reached, the tobacco industry will likely still have to deal with another half million other members of the class who will then be free to file their claims.
The verdict comes one year and one day after the suit, Engle et al vs. R.J. Reynolds et al, was filed. The case is named for a Miami pediatrician suffering from emphysema, a deadly lung disease often linked to smoking, and is the first class action case filed against the industry to end in a trial verdict.
In addition to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. (RJR), the maker of Winston-Salem cigarettes, and Philip Morris (MO), the producer of the Marlboro brand, those companies found liable Wednesday included Lorillard Tobacco Co. Inc., the Liggett Group Inc., Brown & Williamson and the industry trade groups Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute.
The jury also concluded cigarette smoking is addictive, causes several forms of cancer and creates complications during pregnancy.
Philip Morris' stock slid 2-5/8 to close at 39-7/8.
-- from staff and wire reports