So, what is Big Tobacco doing these days in the Florida “Engle” litigation? Are they aggressively trying to bring cases to trial so they can be vindicated? Are they conducting important investigation and discovery in an effort to further justice? Ah, not so much.
I speak with clients each day who want to know why Big Tobacco is sending lawyers (or at least people representing themselves as lawyers) to speak with uncle Joe or their fourth cousin, twice removed, with whom they have not spoken since third grade. They want to know why Big Tobacco needs to know where they have lived through their entire 70+ years of life. Why Big Tobacco insists on bothering their neighbors with interviews?
Well, it is all part of a grand plan, I am sure—right? It is most probably a part of a grand, master plan; but is it one in which the purpose is to further justice? Ah, probably not so much.
In the ‘90’s, there was a movie called “Class Action”; in which Gene Hackman played a lawyer fighting for the rights of victims horribly injured and killed by a defective automobile. In one scene, after discovering the defect the car company president calls in his statistics people, or “bean counters”, as they are affectionately referred to by the president. He asks the bean counters whether lawsuits will cost him more than the cost to retool the line and they tell him that lawsuits will be cheaper than the cost to prevent injuries and deaths. The president decides to continue manufacturing the defective car.
In the Engle tobacco litigation, Big Tobacco faces some 8000 plaintiffs. Tragically and as a direct result of cigarette addiction, these folks are largely older, sick people. I would be quite surprised if Big Tobacco has not consulted the “bean counters” and asked them what number of plaintiffs can be “eliminated” through delay and aggressive litigation tactics. I would suspect the bean counters to let them know how long the litigation needs to be delayed to eliminate “X” numbers of plaintiffs.
Am I being unfair to Big Tobacco? Not so much.