Webb v. Philip Morris Tobacco Trial Begins in Bronson, Florida

Posted by msch on Nov 9, 2010 12:15:00 PM

James Gustafson and Harold Gordon and James HornerDiane Webb v. Philip Morris is an Engle-progeny tobacco trial against R.J. Reynolds brought by the daughter of deceased smoker James Kayce Horner. Mr. Horner started smoking at age 17 in 1934 and smoked for more than 60 years until he died of lung cancer March 11, 1996, at age 78. Mr. Horner smoked RJR brands Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Kool, Camel, and Winston.

Searcy Denney's James W. Gustafson, Jr., told the jury, "We're gonna prove that Jim Horner didn't smoke two packs of cigarettes per day for sixty years because he liked or enjoyed smoking the way you and I like or enjoy eating a slice of pie or watching a football game. He smoked two packs a day because he was addicted. The novelty of suckin' in smoke and blowin' it out, suckin' it in, and blowin' it out -- that novelty wore off pretty quickly. He didn't suck in and blow out cigarette smoke for 40 cigarettes a day for 60 years because it was so much fun to do it...He did it because he was addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes and he smoked to avoid withdrawal."

For the defense, Jones Day's Harold Gordon told the jury that although smoking can be addictive and hard to quit, "the important question is whether the smoker can change his smoking behavior and quit," and "The issue here is whether Mrs. Webb should now get any money for her loss. This case is about money."

Mr. Gordon suggested that the jury should not give any money to Ms. Webb, because, "Nobody forced James Horner to smoke. Nobody tricked him. Nobody held a gun to his head. We'll learn that over the years Mr. Horner received thousands upon thousands of warnings about the health risks of smoking. Information on the dangers of smoking was available from the time he began smoking, and starting in 1966, those warnings were on every pack of cigarettes that James Horner smoked."

Mr. Gordon characterized Mr. Horner as a "very intelligent man" who "enjoyed smoking, and decided to smoke because he liked to smoke," and made no sincere attempts to quit before the 1980's, despite his knowledge of the risks of smoking.

Watch CVN's webcast of the Webb . R.J. Reynolds Engle tobacco trial.

Topics: Toxic Torts, Products Liability, Engle Progeny, Webb v. Philip Morris, Tobacco Litigation