In his closing rebuttal in the Vasko v. Reynolds Engle tobacco trial, Plaintiff attorney Stuart Ratzan aggressively challenged the R.J. Reynolds' statute of limitations defense. "The same people who denied in 1990 that cigarettes caused COPD now say that they have proved that Mr. Vasko should known that he had COPD caused by cigarette smoking? Come on guys!" said Mr. Ratzan. "Not that he had a cough, but that he had COPD?" Mr. Ratzan suggested that some of the jurors might not even have known what COPD was before they heard this case. Mr. Vasko's doctor had not concluded that Mr. Vasko had COPD, said Mr. Ratzan, so would a reasonable person have diagnosed himself with COPD caused by smoking based on a cough that he had had all his life?
Mr. Ratzan also challenged the defense's attempt to proffer evidence that Mr. Vasko's COPD was in fact diagnosed in 1980, rather than 1990, based on a hand-written date in a medical record that did not agree with the doctor's transcription. "There is no 1980 diagnosis," said Mr. Ratzan, "And everybody knows it. What there is is an attempt to convince you of something that everyone knows is not true. When are we going to have a different approach?" Mr. Ratzan suggested that the defense had withheld data from one of their experts, and had tried not to bring the jury the whole information.
Jones Day's Steve Geise presented a fire-breathing closing argument to the jury, challenging every point of the plaintiff's case. "The picture they painted," said Mr. Geise, was that Mr. Vasko "knew nothing about the risks of smoking, was hopelessly addicted, and knew nothing about his personal symptoms until after May 5, 1990." However, said Mr. Geise, this picture was destroyed by the facts and evidence in the case.
Mr. Geise called plaintiff expert Dr. Cummings "traveling road show" on a "war against tobacco" who recruits other experts to join his war. "His agenda is an invitation to you to ignore the facts in this case."
Mr. Geise said that Mr. Ratzan could put the tobacco industry's "Frank Statement" on a poster, or project it on a wall, or blow it up as big as the courthouse, "but it doesn't matter because John Vasko never saw it."