Tobacco Companies Seek Trial Costs
WHEELING, W.Va. â€“â€“ Four tobacco companies that successfully fought a class-action medical monitoring lawsuit want the lawyers who filed it to pay nearly $305,000 for photocopying, transcripts, visual displays and other trial aids.
Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard won their case in November, when jurors decided that cigarettes are not defective, and their makers have not been negligent in designing or manufacturing them.
The jury ruled tobacco companies should not be forced to provide free medical checkups to people who are at risk of becoming sick.
The petition for reimbursement totals $304,667, including $75,630 for depositions from the smokers' witnesses and $45,411 for depositions of their own witnesses.
"I've just never seen anything like it," Deborah McHenry, one of the lawyers for the 250,000 plaintiffs, said Thursday.
She said West Virginia law does not support the arguments for reimbursement. In her response to the petition, McHenry urged Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht to consider the impact such an award might have on other cases.
"If this is the road we're going down in litigation, it would have a tremendous chilling effect," she said.
Attorneys for the smokers prevailed in their argument that a person with a five-year, pack-a-day habit has a higher risk of contracting disease. Still, the jury found routine screening for lung cancer, emphysema and chronic obstructive lung diseases unnecessary.
Instead, jurors accepted the defense's contention that smokers concerned about their health should just quit.
It was the first lawsuit of its kind to be tried in the United States.
The petition by Philip Morris attorney David Thomas also seeks reimbursement for hearing and daily transcripts, jury questionnaires, medical records discovery, trial exhibits and oversized display boards and witness fees.
The companies are entitled to recover all "reasonable and direct costs" associated with a long, complex case, Thomas argued.
Many fees, however, relate to whether the class should have been certified â€“ an issue the smokers won.
No hearing date on the petition has been set.