Closing arguments began this morning in Warrick v. Reynolds. Plaintiff attorney Bob Shields, of Doffermyre Shields, showed the jury video of Philip Morris' president saying, "We do not believe cigarettes are hazardous. We don't accept that," and of a Philip Morris Executive Vice President who stated in 1976 that they could remove dangerous substances from cigarettes if any were proven present, but no one ever has. "I wouldn't be in the business," said the EVP, "if I thought cigarettes were dangerous. The real danger is telling people things that aren't so...I don't know if they are dangerous or not -- someone should find out." That campaign of denying the dangerous nature of cigarettes, said Mr. Shields, continued through 1999.
Additional evidence of the cigarette companies' "campaign of denial and deceit," said Mr. Shields, could be seen in the tobacco companies' own researchers' confidential conclusions that nicotine was addictive and that the cigarette companies were in the business of selling a drug, and in the tobacco companies' senior executives' subsequent 1994 Senate testimony falsely stating that they did not believe cigarettes were addictive.
As for punitive damages, Mr. Shields said that the evidence was overwhelming that punitive damages were warranted in the case. "If punitive damages are ever appropriate, they are appropriate in this case. Now, did they bring any officer or executive in to explain that they really didn't know all of this, and that all of these documents don't really say what they say...that they weren't lying to the American public all the way to 1999?" Instead, Shields recounted, the defense expert conceded that the tobacco companies admitted the truth in 1999, but refused to state when they actually did know.
Mr. Shields also challenged the defense's claim that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The irony, Mr. Shields explained, is that the defendants were essentially claiming that in 1991, when Ms. Warrick was first diagnosed with COPD, she should have known what the tobacco companies were denying at that time -- they were essentially claiming that she should have known that they were lying.
In estimating damages, plaintiff attorney Rick Block added, "Outrageous conduct results in huge, huge damages. That's the point." Block requested damages for 19 years of suffering of damages for chronic, serious, daily illness of COPD, which is progressive suffocation. In addition to medical and other special damages of approximately $850K, and general pain and suffering damages of between roughly 100,000 hours and roughly 350,000 hours, depending on whether the damages were measuring harm to Ms. Warrick's husband Calvin, who was blind and disabled, or to Ms. Warrick herself. Mr. Block suggested that the damages should be at least $20-$30 per hour, but not less than $10 per hour.