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“There are some jurors who are really opposed to the idea of someone who smoked bringing a case against the cigarette manufacturer,” said Keith Mitnick, an Orlando attorney who won a multimillion-dollar verdict against R.J. Reynolds in April. “In jury selection, we target that very question. It doesn’t take but one strong-willed juror to make the difference in the outcome.”

Tobacco companies’ recent setbacks are not limited to Florida:

_ In Boston, a jury in December awarded $152 million to the estate and son of a woman who died of lung cancer in 2002. The lawsuit claimed that Lorillard Tobacco Co. hooked the woman on smoking after giving away free samples of cigarettes in the Boston housing project where she lived as a child.

_ In Connecticut, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., maker of Skoal and Copenhagen, agreed in December to pay $5 million to the family of a man who died of mouth cancer in what was believed to be the first wrongful-death settlement won from a chewing tobacco company.

_ Also in December, Minnesota’s appeals court allowed a class-action case to continue for people who claim Marlboro Light cigarettes, made by Philip Morris, were marketed as supposedly safer to smoke using false advertising and consumer fraud. Philip Morris is appealing that decision.

If the losing trend and multimillion-dollar verdicts continue, some legal experts said the tobacco companies may rethink their long-standing policy against settling the smoker lawsuits.

“When we get to the point that plaintiff verdicts are upheld, with the industry looking at thousands of additional trials and expenses, they would weigh all of that together and possibly settle later down the road,” said Edward Sweda, senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University law school in Boston.

Lawsuits will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court before that has a chance of happening.

“We have a strong legal and factual basis to fight each of these cases. We will fight every adverse decision against us,” said Garnick, the Philip Morris attorney.

The tobacco companies have a long history of doing just that, but they have settled in the past. The biggest came in 1998, when four cigarette makers and 46 states settled for $206 billion a series of lawsuits claiming that smoking drove up public health costs.

In 2006, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., found the six largest tobacco companies guilty of racketeering and fraud for deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking.

The ruling, upheld by an appeals court in May 2009, requires that cigarette manufacturers change the way they market cigarettes. The requirements, since adopted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ban labels such as “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light” or “mild,” since such cigarettes have been found no safer than others.

The ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the justices declined to hear it.

(This version corrects name of attorney, Stephen J. Hammer not Jay Hammer.)