The jury ruled in favor of big tobacco companies Thursday in the first of Lee County’s 150 trials seeking damages for cigarette-related health problems.

The question was whether defendant John Szymanski was addicted to discount Ritm cigarettes, and if so, whether this was a legal cause of his laryngeal cancer. The jury, which got the case Thursday after a nine-day trial, decided it wasn’t.

Szymanski started smoking at age 11 and soon picked up a two-pack-a-day habit. The 72-year-old Fort Myers resident stopped almost two decades ago when he was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer.

Craig Stevens of Morgan & Morgan was one of the attorneys representing Szymanski. He argued Szymanski didn’t know the dangers of smoking when he started, which led to him eventually developing an addiction to nicotine. Therefore, Stevens argued his client was not responsible for his decision to smoke.

“He started (smoking) in an era in the early ’50s in which there were no cautions, no warnings,” Stevens said.

A professor from Duke University, as well as several of Szymanski’s local doctors, testified that smoking was one of the causes of his cancer, Stevens said.

Lawyers for Philip Morris USA, one of the tobacco companies on trial, argued otherwise.

“The jury listened to the facts, recognized that the plaintiff was responsible for his own smoking decision and appropriately found in favor of Philip Morris USA,” Murray Garnick, a spokesman for Philip Morris, said in a statement.

The Szymanski trial is one of 8,000 cases being tried in Florida that stem from a $145 billion class-action suit that was broken up in 2006. The cases are called Engle cases after the original winner of the class-action suit, Howard Engle.

The two other tobacco companies on trial Thursday were Liggett Group LLC and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Steve Callahan, another spokesman for Phillip Morris USA, thinks it’s unconstitutional that present and future Engle cases are and will be influenced by findings from the original Engle class-action suit.

“Today means the jury decided in favor of Phillip Morris USA, but we think it violates Florida law and due process because they’re allowed to rely on findings from a previous jury that have no connection to the cases at hand,” Callahan said.

Thursday’s case was Morgan & Morgan’s third Engle case and its first Engle loss. The firm previously won verdicts of $91 million and $40 million.