( AP ) - Italy's highest court has upheld a $290,000 damage award against a large tobacco company following the 1991 lung cancer death of a smoker, lawyers for the family said Monday.
The ruling, which was made public Monday, upheld a 2005 decision by a Rome appeals court that awarded the damages to Mario Stalteri's widow and son. Stalteri died of lung cancer in 1991 after having smoked a pack of cigarettes a day since 1950.
Lawyers for the family said in a statement that the ruling was the first from a European high court upholding a smoking-related damage award.
"The sentence constitutes an important warning to producers of noxious substances," said lawyers Giulio Ponzanelli and Vincenzo Zeno-Zencovich.
British American Tobacco in Italy said, however, that the high court didn't pronounce itself on the tobacco producer's responsibility in the death of Stalteri and said the ruling likely would not serve as a precedent for other cases, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
The high court said an appeals court should decide whether other damages are warranted, ANSA said.
ANSA quoted British American Tobacco Italia lawyer Roberto Poli as saying that other Italian courts had recently rejected damage awards for relatives of smokers and had refused to lay responsibility on the tobacco producer.
British American Tobacco has maintained it had nothing to do with Stalteri's death since the company was only created in 2003, after Italy's state-owned tobacco company Ente Tabacchi Italiano SpA was sold to a group of investors led by British American Tobacco PLC.