Hatziyannakis Engle Tobacco Trial Begins in Ft. Lauderdale

Posted by msch on Feb 2, 2011 4:13:00 PM

Crane Johnstone and Kenneth ReillyChris Hatziyannakis was a Marlboro smoker who died of lung cancer in 1994. Hatziyannakis v. Phillip Morris was brought by Mr. Hatziyannakis' widow, Despina (Debbie), and his son Jim.

Representing the plaintiffs, Crane Johnstone, of the Schlesinger Law Firm, told the jury that the Tobacco industry had "habitually, dishonestly, year-after-year, glamorized smoking" through advertisements, including the ads featuring "The Marlboro Man." According to Mr. Johnstone, Mr. Hatziyannakis was a greek immigrant who enjoyed Western movies, was fond of western themes, and was taken by the image of the Marlboro Man.

Mr. Johnstone said that Mr. Hatziyannakis smoked a pack a day from 1967-1973, more than a pack a day from 1973-1981, and from 2-3 packs per day from 1981 until his death in 1994. Mr. Hatziyannakis "smoked like a fiend," and smoked "all the time," "literally morning, noon, and night." He left church in the middle of service to smoke, said Mr. Johnstone.

Mr. Hatziyannakis tried at least 4-5 times to quit, but developed all the withdrawal symptoms you would expect if you were addicted to a drug. According to Mr Johnstone, Mr. Hatziyannakis's wife Despina did not smoke, and asked him to quit, in response to which Mr. Hatziyannakis reportedly said, "I'd give you anything, I've been the best husband I can be...but I cannot quit smoking." And he tried, Mr. Johnstone recounted, and he could not, because he was horribly addicted to this drug, nicotine. Even while he was hacking and coughing and spitting up blood, and he was told he had an incurable, fatal illness, he continued to smoke.

For the defense, Shook Hardy Bacon's Kenneth Reilly reminded the jury that not everyone who smokes becomes addicted; even addicted smokers are able to quit; some people smoke for the enjoyment and for reasons other than addiction; and every pack of cigarettes Mr. Hatsiyannakis ever smoked, and every ad he ever saw, came with a warning explicitly stating that smoking was dangerous.

The entire case, said Mr. Reilly, could be reduced to three concepts: control, causation, and responsibility. Mr. Hatziyannakis made his own decisions, and properly bore responsibility for the results.

Mr. Reilly was on the losing side of the first Engle case to go to trial, Hess v. R.J. Reynolds. However, he subsequently racked up defense wins in Kalyvas v. Philip Morris, Warrick v. Phillip Morris, and Espinosa v. Philip Morris.

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CVN is webcasting the Hatziyannakis Engle Tobacco trial live.

Topics: Toxic Torts, Products Liability, Hatziyannakis v. RJR, Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation