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Tobacco Smoke and Florida Heat

03/25/2010
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Those Big Tobacco guys are at it again.

Do they not care for Florida juries, Florida judges, or the Florida Supreme Court? At the least, Big Tobacco does not like the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in the “Engle” cases. These cases stem from a class, which was decertified by the Florida Supreme Court.

Big Tobacco just suffered yet another loss in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; where a jury, after hearing evidence, was apparently so outraged by the past conduct of Big tobacco they rendered a $20 million verdict for punitive damages against the tobacco companies. This was a case involving a 50 year smoker who died of lung cancer. The jury awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and assessed one third responsibility for his death against Mr. Cohen himself.

The tobacco companies are on a losing streak with juries who are permitted to hear even a small capsule of their history of conduct in marketing, manipulating and chemically engineering cigarettes. After this verdict on behalf of Mr. Cohen, Phillip Morris issued statements, which now have become the “party line” mantra and could simply be tape recorded and played after every trial they lose:

“We will seek further review of this verdict because this jury was allowed to rely on findings by a prior jury that are totally unrelated to the individual smoker in this case in violation of Florida law and due process.”

Let’s take a look at these “findings by a prior jury” about which Big Tobacco is so worked up. The findings they do not like and apparently feel are unfair, were actually set forth by the Florida Supreme Court after review of trial transcripts and other records involved in the “Engle” trials that went on over two years:

1. Cigarettes cause diseases, including: aortic aneurysm, bladder cancer, cerebrovascular disease, cervical cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer (specifically, adenocarinoma, large cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma), complications of pregnancy, oral cavity/tongue cancer, pancreatic cancer, peripheral vascular disease, pharyngeal cancer, and stomach cancer.

How can Big Tobacco disagree with this statement? How is it unfair for the jury to hear this conclusion? This is simply well founded science. If the plaintiff in any given case suffered one of these diseases and their physician says it was from smoking, how can they argue with the conclusion on the whole?

2. Nicotine is addictive.

Once again, does the tobacco industry dispute this fact with a straight face? Can they possibly claim that a given plaintiff was not addicted to the drugs placed into tobacco by the defendants themselves? Does Big Tobacco now claim that the numerous references in their own documents to cigarettes being the single best drug delivery system ever developed were set forth in error? Do they now claim that cigarettes and the components they placed into tobacco are not addictive?

3. Big Tobacco placed cigarettes on the market that were defective and unreasonably dangerous.

Keep in mind that the relative time period involved with all of these cases is one in which the plaintiffs were all addicted to cigarettes long before the surgeon general compelled warnings be placed on cigarette packaging. The time period is when Big Tobacco was placing doctors in ads and saying that cigarettes were not only safe, but they were good for you! Certainly Big Tobacco does not expect anyone to believe their product was not defective or dangerous; do they?

4. The tobacco industry concealed or omitted facts about the addictive nature of cigarettes.

Certainly no one still alive today would believe this conclusion was untrue.

5. Big Tobacco conspired to conceal information regarding the health effects and addictive nature of their products.

Again, what can Tobacco say that would reasonably dispute this?

6. The tobacco industry sold cigarettes that were defective.

If Big Tobacco produced cigarettes they knew were addictive and they knew would result in horrible diseases (see number 1 above). Then they supplied a product that when used exactly as it is supposed to be used causes injuries, it is defective.

7. That the tobacco companies sold cigarettes that did not conform to the representations they made about them.

Simply look at the ads produced by Big Tobacco for the last 70 or 80 years.

The FTC set forth the following in 1981:

Tobacco I

8. Big Tobacco was negligent.

Well, sorry, but I can only think: “Duh”!

Again, they produced a defective product. They “engineered” the product in a way to make it highly addictive. They knew their product caused disease. They hid all these facts from the public and continued to dispute them even after being forced to begin warning the public. In fact, Big Tobacco’s ability to hide their negligence continued on, long after warnings were required:

Tobacco I

Now, Big Tobacco is frustrated to be forced to stand before a jury in Florida, before Florida judges and face Florida law — all a part of the Florida “heat”– and claim that they are getting unfair treatment.

What Big Tobacco cannot take is open minded jurors being allowed to consider evidence that clearly demonstrates concerted and profit motivated efforts to create a “social” drug; to manipulate that drug to maximize its addictiveness; to create advertising providing socially attractive reasons for ingesting the drug; and hiding from the public the increasing dangers of the drug to smoker’s health.

So, Big Tobacco Execs, “smoke ’em if ya got’em”.

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