Closing Statements in Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Trial

Posted by msch on Dec 9, 2010 3:53:00 PM

Attorneys Michael Weisman and Walter Cofer in Evans v LorillardThe defense made their closing statement first in the Evans v. Lorillard tobacco trial in Suffolk County Superior Court (Boston).

For Lorillard, Shook Hardy Bacon's Walter Cofer told the jury, "When you first hear about the case of Marie Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Company, you have to admit, it's a pretty compelling story. A young African American girl grows up in the Projects, Orchard Park. She's seduced by a greedy tobacco company, she becomes addicted, and that robs her of her ability to choose health, and cuts her life short. Her son, a successful, Harvard-educated trial lawyer, carries on a lawsuit to seek justice, and remedy the wrongs and indignities that his mother suffered. It's a story that appeals to your gut; it appeals to your heart; and it's carefully crafted to appeal to your emotions."

"But when you look at the evidence," said Mr. Cofer, "and you think about the plaintiff's case, what you realize is, it just doesn't make sense." 

According to Mr. Cofer, the plaintiff's case resolved to three claims: First, that Lorillard put free samples of cigarettes is Ms. Evans' hands, which is why she smoked and why she died. Second, that Newport cigarettes are defective and unreasonably dangerous because they contain menthol and cause cancer, and because Lorillard didn't take the nicotine out. Third, that if Lorillard would have just put a warning on the cigarette packs earlier, Ms. Evans would not have smoked, and would not have gotten sick.

Mr. Cofer then explained why none of the three claims could survive scrutiny. In conclusion, Mr. Cofer played for the jury video of Ms. Evans' deposition in 2002 acknowledging that she had obtained many benefits from smoking, at least in the early years, and stating that she believed people should have the right to weigh the risks and benefits of smoking and make a decision whether to smoke.

For the plaintiff, Davis Malm & D'Agostine's Michael Weisman told the jury, "Lorillard Tobacco Company continues to deny the fundamental truth that it targeted children with their addictive products."

Ms. Evans became addicted around age 13 when free Newport cigarettes were distributed, including to children, said Mr. Weisman, and the times later in her life when medical records indicated that Ms. Evans expressed a disinclination to quit smoking were moments of extreme stress, which would be especially difficult times to quit.

Nicotine addiction deprived Ms. Evans of free choice, said Mr. Weisman. Reviewing the expert testimony, Mr. Weisman reminded the jury that addiction is an illness, and that nicotine is the most addictive major drug. There was testimony that drugs can change the circuits of the brain controlling emotions and motivation, impairing a person's power of choice, and that it's worse when the drug affects a child.

The truth about Ms. Evans, said Mr. Weisman, is that she was a highly functional motivated person, who nonetheless could not stop smoking because she was addicted, and eventually died of lung cancer caused by smoking.

Watch CVN's webcast of Evans v. Lorillard.

Topics: Toxic Torts, Products Liability, Evans v. Lorillard, Tobacco Litigation