Expert Heavy Plaintiff Wins Against Big Tobacco

February 12, 2015

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Plaintiff: Smoking Cigarettes Caused Husband’s Death

Amount: $6,000,000

Type: Verdict-Plaintiff

State: Florida

Venue: Federal

Court: U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville

Injury Type(s):

other-death
other-loss of society
cancer-lung
arterial/vascular
pulmonary/respiratory-chronic obstructive pulmonary/respiratory disease

Case Type: Products Liability – Tobacco, Failure to Warn, Manufacturing Defect

Case Name:

Ellen Gray, as personal representative of the Estate of Henry Gray v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Company, and Liggett Group, LLC, No. 3:09-cv-13603-WGY-HTS

Date: January 29, 2015

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Ellen Gray (Female),

Estate of Henry(deceased) Gray (Male, 63 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Sarah R. London; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; San Francisco, CA, for Ellen Gray,Estate of Henry(deceased) Gray
John Spragens; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; Nashville, TN, for Ellen Gray, Estate of Henry(deceased) Gray

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Alan Feingold; M.D.; Pulmonology; Miami, FL called by Sarah R. London, John Spragens
Neil Grunberg; Ph.D.; Addiction Behavior; Bethesda, MD called by Sarah R. London, John Spragens
Robert Slaton; M.D.; Internal Medicine; Gainesville, FL called by Sarah R. London, John Spragens
Robert Proctor; Ph.D.; Historian; Stanford, CA called by Sarah R. London,John Spragens

Defendant(s):

Liggett Group, LLC,  Philip Morris USA, Inc.,  Lorillard Tobacco Company,  R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

Defense Attorney(s):

Steven N. Geise; Jones Day; San Diego, CA, for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Aviva L. Wernick; Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, LLP; Miami, FL, for Lorillard Tobacco Company
Kelly Anne Luther; Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP; Miami, FL, for Liggett Group, LLC
Joyce D. McKinniss; Jones Day; Cleveland, OH, for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Jeffrey Wagner; Kaye Scholer, LLP; Chicago, IL, for Philip Morris USA, Inc.

Facts:

In 1995, Henry Gray, 63, died of lung cancer in Gainesville.

Ellen Gray, representing the estate of her husband, sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philp Morris USA, Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Company, and Liggett Group LLC, alleging products liability.

The estate alleged that negligence on the part of the tobacco companies caused Gray’s death, as a result of being addicted to nicotine. The estate further alleged that as a result of using the products of the parties sued, Gray suffered from cancer which caused his death. All of the sued parties with the exception of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company were dismissed before trial. It was determined that Gray mainly smoked cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The case stemmed from the Florida state court class-action case, Engle v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. In 2000, a jury in Engle rendered a $145 billion punitive damages verdict in favor of a class of Florida smokers allegedly harmed by their addiction to nicotine. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court reversed that award and decertified the class action, but allowed potentially thousands of lawsuits to be filed.

The estate claimed Gray began smoking at age 16 – before the package warnings of the health hazards and addictive nature of cigarettes were required. The estate’s expert tobacco historian testified that R.J. Reynolds engaged in fraud and conspired to conceal the health effects of cigarettes and their addictive nature. Gray’s treating physician, an internist, testified that, based on his care and treatment, addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine caused Gray’s lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and vascular diseases. He further testified that there were no other significant risk factors for any of Gray’s diseases, aside from his 90-pack-per-year smoking history. The estate’s addiction expert testified that Gray was addicted to cigarettes.

Defense counsel denied all of the estate’s claims, contending that Gray was not addicted to smoking. The defense further claimed that Gray chose to smoke knowing the risks and bore personal responsibility for the consequences of that decision.

Injury:

Gray’s wife sought to recover damages for loss of society, companionship and protection, as a result of her husband’s death

Result:

The jury found Henry Gray was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine. The jury found the addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine was a legal cause of Henry Gray’s injuries, and also found that smoking cigarettes was a legal cause of Henry Gray’s death.

Further, the jury found that Henry Gray did not rely to his detriment on statements made by R.J. Reynolds that concealed or omitted material information concerning the health effects and/or addictive nature of cigarette smoking.

The jury found R.J. Reynolds 50 percent negligent and Henry Gray 50 percent negligent.

Finally, the jury determined that Ellen Gray’s damages totaled $6 million. Because of comparative negligence, the award was reduced to $3 million.

 

Filed under: Expert Witnesses,Medical,Trial Strategy,Verdict Search

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