PORTLAND, Ore. – A landmark $150 million jury verdict against Philip Morris was vacated Wednesday by an appeals court that ordered a new trial to reconsider damages against the tobacco manufacturer after a trial judge ruled the amount was excessive. The March 2002 verdict, later reduced to $100 million, was the first such award in the nation based on claims that low-tar cigarettes led smokers to believe they were less dangerous than regular cigarettes. A jury ordered Philip Morris to pay $150 million in punitive damages to the estate of Michelle Schwarz, of Salem, who died of lung cancer in 1999 at age 53. The jury had agreed with lawyers for her family, who claimed Philip Morris fraudulently marketed its low-tar Merit brand as safer than regular cigarettes. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals But Multnomah County Circuit Judge Roosevelt Robinson found that amount “grossly excessive” and reduced it to $100 million. The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the jury verdict Wednesday and sent the case back to the circuit court to reconsider the amount of punitive damages. The appeals court ruled that Robinson had failed to give the jury specific instructions requested by the tobacco company, but that he had the authority to reduce the amount of damages. The court also upheld the portion of the jury ruling on fraud, negligence and liability by Philip Morris.