Court says Seita partially responsible in death
MONTARGIS, France, Dec 8 (Reuters) - A French court ruled on Tuesday that tobacco company Seita was partially responsible for the death of a smoker and named an expert to evaluate damages.
Seita shares plunged on the news, dipping initially 9.23 percent to 47.20 euros ($48.40), and then recovering slightly after a five minute cooling-off period introduced this autumn by the Paris Bourse to allow traders to adjust the price of their orders. They were down 7.69 percent by 1413 GMT.
The widow of Richard Goulain, who died on January 7 this year at the age of 50 after a triple cancer of the lungs and tongue, had claimed close to three million French francs ($469,200) from Seita.
Health authorities in the French region of Loiret also claimed damages, seeking 977,396 francs which it says it spent in caring for him.
The court said that the tobacco company was at fault in Gourlain's case by not fulfilling its obligation to provide information about tobacco health risks after 1976.
That was the year in which France introduced the so-called Veil law which obliges tobacco companies to put health warnings on cigarette packets.
But the court also recognised that starting from 1969, when Gourlain was aged 20, he himself was some 40 percent at fault in contributing to the worsening of his own situation.
The expert has three months to evaluate the damages claim.
The judgement came as Seita and Spain's Tabacalera were finalising a merger to create the world's fourth largest tobacco firm, to be called Altadis, due to be listed in Paris and Madrid on Friday.
Goulain smoked two packets of dark Gauloise cigarettes without filters each day from the age of 14. He began the case himself before his death, and it was then taken up by his widow.
($1 equals 6.394 French Franc)