Huish v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Trial Begins

Posted by msch on Feb 14, 2011 11:06:00 AM

James Gustafson and Jeff Furr and Andrew Brenner in Huish v ReynoldsHuish v. R.J. Reynolds involves John Huish, who was born in 1929. Mr. Huish started smoking cigarettes as a teenager in the mid or late 1940's, approximately 20 years before the first caution label appeared on a pack of cigarettes. Mr. Huish died of small cell lung cancer in 1993, at the age of 64. The case was brought by Mr. Huish's widow, Anna Louise Huish.

Mr. Huish smoked RJR's Lucky Strikes from 1946 to 1959, RJR's Camels from 1959-1973; Liggett's Chesterfields from 1973-1975, Philip Morris' Marlboro Red until 1984' then Marlboro Lights until he died in 1993.

Searcy Denny's James Gustafson told the jury in his opening statement, "We're going to prove in this case that Mr. Huish didn't smoke two or more packs of cigarettes a day for 46 years because he liked or enjoyed smoking cigarettes the way that you and I like or enjoy eating a certain dessert or watching a movie on TV. We're going to prove to you in this case that he smoked that much cigarettes -- two, three, and up to four packs per day, for 46 years -- because he was addicted. You see, the novelty when you're a teenager, of suckin' in smoke, blowin' it out, inhaling the smoke, and blowing it out -- that novelty, of doing that over and over again, wears off. And then the smoker is smoking nicotine."

"The evidence is going to show you," said Mr. Gustafson, "that no reasonable person would freely choose to continue smoking when it has caused you to have a tumor in your lung and coughing up blood. The testimony is going to be that he was addicted. And addiction overwhelmingly constrains your ability to exercise free choice."

"He got millions of doses of nicotine," said Mr. Gustafson, "nicotine that the defendants knew was addictive, he smoked because he was addicted. The defendants knew not only was it addictive, but the cigarettes had carcinogens...dozens of them, that cause cancer. They concealed it. They denied it, fifty years. They actively misrepresented what they knew to be true in an effort to keep people like Mr. Huish smoking. They celebrated internally how addictive nicotine was, and they did everything they could do to keep addicted smokers smoking."

For R.J. Reynolds, King & Spalding's Jeff Furr told the jury, "We're here because Mrs. Huish is going to ask you to award her a large sum of money. I don't know how much they're going to ask you for. It may be in the millions of dollars. But she's going to ask you to award her a large sum of money because her husband chose to smoke, for 45 years, without ever once -- not once, ever -- trying to quit smoking. Even though, before he chose to light that first cigarette, he had been taught that smoking was dangerous and addictive."

For Philip Morris, Boies Schiller's Andrew Brenner told the jury that the issue in the case wasn't whether cigarettes were addictive, or even whether Mr. Huish was addicted, but even if he was addicted, did that addiction to nicotine controll John Huish and leave him no choice but to continue smoking until he died. 

"John Huish was taught," said Mr. Brenner, "as a core family belief -- let me repeat that -- a core family belief, in his family, his nuclear family -- that smoking was not only dangerous, it was addictive...While there may be some people that learned for the first time smoking was dangerous from those warnings [on cigarette packages], John Huish was undoubtedly not one of those people."

"The evidence in this case will be crystal clear," said Mr. Brenner, "that John Huish, not once, until at or about the time in 1993 he was diagnosed with lung cancer, not once did he try to quit. It's not a matter of trying harder. It's not a matter of there being different cessation aids available, it's not about whether hypnosis was available or gum. John Huish never once tried to quit...John Huish chose to smoke not because he lacked any information about whether it was dangerous or addictive. He chose to smoke because he wanted to."

CVN is webcasting Huish v. R.J. Reynolds live.

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