Opening Statements in Peter Mack Tobacco Trial

Posted by msch on Mar 10, 2011 5:15:00 PM

Attorneys Brent Bigger and Jeffrey FurrMack v. R.J. Reynolds (Gainesville, Florida).

Pete Mack Sr., born in 1922, was a smoker who contracted laryngeal cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Mr. Mack's son, Peter Mack Jr., asserted that Mr. Mack was an Engle class member entitled to recover for smoking-related harms.

On behalf of the plaintiff, Abrahamson & Uiterwyk's Brent Bigger told the jury that Mr. Mack was "highly addicted" to nicotine, and smoked 20, 40, 60 Camel cigarettes per day, for 40-45 years, until he eventually quit smoking.

His addiciton, said Mr. Bigger, was a substantial cause of Mr. Mack's laryngeal cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary dissease (COPD). "The evidence in this trial," said Mr. Bigger, "will show you that addiction as a legal cause has nothing to do with whether someone was able to quit."

For R.J. Reynolds, King & Spalding's Jeff Furr told the jury that Mr. Mack died at the age of 86, not as a result of smoking. The laryngeal cancer was completely cured by radiation, and he did not contract COPD until approximately 20 years after he quit smoking.

R.J. Reynolds could not be held liable, said Mr. Furr, because Mr. Mack's smoking choices were not impacted by anything that R.J. Reynolds said about the dangers of smoking. Indeed, Mr. Mack stopped smoking "cold turkey," a sign that Mr. Mack decided for himself when to smoke and when not to smoke.

Mr. Furr previewed for the jury extensive evidence that Mr. Mack had learned as a child that smoking was addictive and dangerous, including warnings presented in educational texts, newspaper articles, and magazine articles. Mr. Furr also played for the jury the 1947 Tex Williams song "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette."

Peter Mack and Mildred Mack

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

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