Tobacco Lawyers Aim To Limit Award
MIAMI (AP) -- Attorneys trying to save the tobacco industry from a potentially crippling damage verdict turned today to a familiar line of defense: that smokers knew the dangers and could have quit, and that smoking may not have caused their cancer.
Attorney Dan Reid told jurors that Mary Farnan, whose case history was presented Monday as representative of a class of smokers, ``had a great deal of information about the risks of smoking ... but chose to continue to smoke.''
Reid, representing the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., was the first of the defense lawyers to make an opening statement to the six-member jury that will decide how much the industry should pay in damages for its products. The jury already has found tobacco products to be deadly and defective.
Lawyers from Philip Morris Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Liggett Group Inc. also will tell the jury why their clients should not be forced to pay damages to ill Florida smokers.
Two of those smokers, Ms. Farnan and Frank Amodeo, are being used to represent all of the estimated 500,000 ill smokers who are part of this class-action suit.
Reid told the jury that the specific cancers of the two representatives may have been caused by something other than tobacco smoke.
The same jury ruled in July that cigarettes are a ``defective product'' that causes cancer and other diseases and that tobacco companies had engaged in ``extreme and outrageous conduct'' in selling and marketing their product.
The jurors must now put a price tag on actual damages for Ms. Farnan and Amodeo. If the jurors award the pair damages, they will then consider whether to award punitive damages to all ill smokers in Florida.
Predictions of potential damages have been as high as $300 billion.
On Monday, Stanley Rosenblatt, attorney for the smokers, said the tobacco companies lied and misled the public for years by glamorizing smoking and playing down its dangers.
He used Ms. Farnan and Amodeo to show how the cigarette companies' actions led to their addictions and illnesses. Ms. Farnan is a 44-year-old nurse and mother of three from Inglis. Amodeo is a 60-year-old Orlando clock maker.
They became addicted to cigarettes as children and became ill after developing an addiction with encouragement from cigarette makers, Rosenblatt said.
``What caused Mary Farnan's lung cancer?'' Rosenblatt asked. ``Every day, every week, puff, puff, puff ... the cigarettes caused her lung damage.''
Also Monday, a lawyer tried to persuade the Florida Supreme Court to reinstate a $750,000 judgment for a former smoker against Brown & Williamson.
When a jury handed down the award for Grady Carter in August 1996, it was just the second time in 40 years of anti-smoking litigation that a cigarette-maker was ordered to pay damages. But the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed the award almost two years later.
The appeals court ruled that Carter, a retired air traffic controller, had waited too long to go to court.