A former smoker who won a $750,000 lawsuit against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. saw the verdict evaporate when an appeals court ruled he had waited too long to file his case.

Even if Grady Carter had sued on time, the appeals court said Monday, the verdict would have been reversed because of a 1969 federal law that bars lawsuits claiming the wording of the cigarette warning label is inadequate.The 1996 verdict Carter won in Jacksonville was only the second time in 40 years of anti-smoking litigation that a tobacco company was ordered to pay damages. Since then, the industry has lost only one other case, also in Florida.

Carter, 68, blamed Brown & Williamson for the lung cancer he developed after smoking for 44 years. A jury said the cigarettes were a defective product and their makers were negligent for not warning people of the danger.

But the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 Monday that the lawsuit "was filed more than four years after Grady Carter knew or should have known that he had a smoking-related disease."

Carter said he was disappointed but not surprised. "It is hard to beat the tobacco companies," he said.

He said he would talk with his attorney, Norwood "Woody" Wilner, to "see where we go from here." Wilner could not be reached for comment Monday. His firm is working on a similar case scheduled for trial in October, representing a smoker and the families of two deceased smokers against Phillip Morris Tobacco Co.