Attorney Dennis Pantazis told the jury in closing Phase 1 of Stella Koballa v. R.J. Reynolds "You've seen me get angry and you've seen me get upset...because we believe in our case." Mr. Pantazis asserted that addiction to nicotine was most likely the only cause of Ms. Koballa's injuries, but certainly it was a substantial contributing factor. "She paid someone to put her under hypnosis, not once but twice, and then she tried accupuncture," said Mr. Pantazis. "Does that sound like someone who is in control of her behavior?"
Ms. Koballa smoked cigarettes for 48 years, from 1948 to 1996, a pack and a half to two packs of cigarettes, which was 5-7 hours per day, said Mr. Pantazis. She smoked Lucky Strikes, Tareyton, and BelAir. "If Ms. Koballa is not addicted -- and cigarettes are addictive and the DSM says 80% of smokers are addicted -- who is?"
Not only was she addicted, but the addiction also caused her injury, said Mr. Pantazis. Mr. Pantazis told the jury that 80-85% of adenocarcinomas are caused by smoking, and there was no evidence in the case that any of the other alleged exposures that the defense had cited, such as coal dust, vinyl chloride, or air pollution, caused COPD or lung cancer.
Representing R.J. Reynolds, Carlton Fields' Benjamine Reid said to the jury, "I want to start today by telling you what we proved." First, Stella Koballa's lung cancer and COPD resulted from years of insults to her lungs. The inflammation to her lungs is what subsequently led to lung cancer and COPD. "We did not say," said Mr. Reid, "that lung scars cause cancer. We said that the scars were evidence of insults...which led to inflammation and tissue damage, which causes the cancer."
Second, according to Mr. Reid, Ms. Koballa was not addicted to nicotine because she was able to stop, and she did stop. She was in control of her smoking.
Third, said Mr. Reid, nicotine was not a factor in Ms. Koballa's decisions to start smoking in the first place after she quit each of those times for two or three months, because the nicotine was gone from her system and her brain had returned to normal.