Blitch v. RJR Tobacco Trial Challenges Liggett

Posted by msch on Mar 15, 2011 2:08:00 PM

Blitch v Liggett Tobacco Trial with Norwood Wilner and Kelly LutherBlitch v. R.J. Reynolds (Jacksonville, Florida).

Laura Elizabeth "Betty" Blitch died in 1998 of cancer of the esophagus, allegedly caused by smoking. Ms. Blitch was born in 1924 and apparently started smoking Liggett's Chesterfield cigarette brand in the 1940's. In the 1970's she smoked Eve, another Liggett brand. "The Liggett contribution was overwhelming," said Norwood "Woody" Wilner, of Wilner Hartley & Metcalf. "There was no question. It became her major brand, her only brand, and it was probably her starting brand."

In describing to the jury the relative toxicity of cigarettes, Mr. Wilner said, "If you want to compare cigarettes with anything else, like alcohol...7,000 per million per year die of cigarette smoking. Only 275 from alcohol. Only 6 from air pollution...Today we heard the tragedy from Japan, possibly 10,000 people dead. How do you compare it to this? About 10,000 deaths per week in the United States from cigarettes."

According to Mr. Wilner, these were all preventable, unnecessary deaths, and Liggett, having made misrepresentations about the safety of smoking with the intention of misleading smokers, could not blame anyone else for smoking its product.

For Liggett, Kasowitz Benson's Kelly Luther told the jury that Liggett today was a very small domestic cigarette manufacturer with one factory, and today only manufactures discount cigarette brands. The main story in the case, said Mr. Luther, was Betty Blitch and the lifestyle choices that she made.

According to Ms. Luther, the plaintiff's story was mostly a "side show...The history and design of cigarettes, and issues about Liggett and the conduct of other tobacco companies that aren't even defendants in this lawsuit -- these things, the evidence will show, have never had any bearing or impact on Mrs. Blitch."

CVN is webcasting live the Blitch-Liggett tobacco trial.

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