Fla. Smokers Seek Compensation
MIAMI (AP) - Jurors have only heard half of the story on a request for $14.4 million in compensatory damages by three smokers suing the nation's biggest cigarette makers, a tobacco attorney says.
The lawyer representing the smokers ``ignored certain fundamental and critical evidence that is very much a part of this case,'' Philip Morris attorney Dan Webb said Wednesday. He was to resume today what he said would be a 13-hour industry response to the smokers' claims.
The jury, which already has decided the industry conspired to make a dangerous product, was expected to begin deliberating early next week the nation's first-class action suit by smokers to reach trial. An estimated 500,000 sick Florida smokers are covered under the lawsuit.
If any money is awarded, the same panel will be asked to award punitive damages to the group to punish cigarette makers. The industry fears such an award could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars.
For now, the jury will be asked to assess the medical bills, lost income, cost of household services the smokers are unable to perform, pain and suffering from lung cancer in Mary Farnan and the late Angie Della Vecchia and throat cancer in Frank Amodeo.
Physicians and outside experts blamed smoking for each case.
The industry has offered evidence that bronchioalveolar cancer - a form of lung cancer that the jury decided is not linked to smoking - caused the cancers. It blamed industrial wood dust as a possible cause of Amodeo's cancer.
Jurors must consider the individual smokers' awareness of bad conduct by cigarette makers, the choices they made whether to smoke or quit and their personal responsibility, Webb argued.
For the first time, smokers' attorney Stanley Rosenblatt offered the dollar figure for ``devastating, ravaging injuries'' caused by the industry's defective products.
Economic losses totaled $4.2 million for the three: $2.1 million for Amodeo, $1.6 million for Farnan and $523,000 for Della Vecchia, Rosenblatt said.
He asked for an additional $2 million to $3 million each to cover the intangibles - doubts about whether Farnan will see her 9-year-old daughter graduate from high school, 19-year-old James Della Vecchia's loss of his mother and the price Amodeo pays for never being able to eat or drink for the rest of his life. He is fed through a stomach tube because of throat damage.
The defendants are Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc. and the industry's Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute.