West Virginia Medical Monitoring Tobacco Trial Ends in Mistrial
Wheeling, West Virginia, Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- A lawsuit by healthy smokers seeking to compel Philip Morris Cos. and other U.S. tobacco companies to pay for medical monitoring ended today in a mistrial, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc. said.
At the trial in state court in Wheeling, West Virginia, Judge Arthur Recht said plaintiffs should not have introduced testimony about addiction, R.J. Reynolds said. Based on earlier rulings, the smokers were not allowed to claim addition as a reason for damages.
Lawyers in the class-action case, which began Jan. 9, claimed the tobacco companies should pay for medical screening to detect illnesses in healthy West Virginia smokers.
``If it saves one life, it's reasonable,'' said Paul Hulsey, an attorney for the class of West Virginia smokers suing the cigarette makers, during opening statements.
Lawyers for the tobacco companies countered that the best way to prevent smoking-related illnesses is to kick the habit.
The state court trial in Wheeling, West Virginia, was the second class-action smokers' suit against the tobacco industry to go to trial in the United States. While the other case in Florida resulted in the record-shattering $145 billion verdict against the industry, plaintiffs' lawyers in the Wheeling case weren't asking jurors to impose punitive damages.
Besides Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc., defendants included British American Tobacco Plc's Brown & Williamson unit, Loews Corp.'s Lorillard Inc., and Vector Group Ltd.'s Liggett.
Philip Morris rose 25 cents to $43.69 in morning trading; R.J. Reynolds fell 69 cents to $50.06; Loews rose $1.44 to $91.25; Vector rose 13 cents to $18.56 and British American Tobacco's American depositary receipts fell 6 cents to $14.19.