Blitch v. R.J. Reynolds (Jacksonville, Florida).
Snapping a six-case plaintiff winning streak, Liggett Group, in a rare appearance as solo defendant in an Engle-progeny trial, prevailed in a case brought on behalf of smoker Betty Blitch.
In his closing statement, Wilner Hartley's Woody Wilner urged the jury, when considering how much fault to assign to Ms. Blitch, to keep in mind that "This was a combined, massive effort to sell cigarettes, that Liggett belonged to, and everybody else belonged to. As we look under the door, and see the ugliness inside, this was the biggest conspiracy, the biggest public relations blitz in American history...And of course this was an industry that had the power to spend $250 billion dollars on advertising in this time period."
For Liggett, Kasowitz Benson's Kelly Luther argued that smoking did not cause Ms. Blitch's esophageal cancer, and that smoking Liggett cigarettes definitely did not contribute to her esophogeal cancer. "Even if you were to remove all of Betty Blitch's smoking, she had a substantial risk of going on to develop her esophogeal cancer because of the other risk factors that she had," including alcohol use, cervical cancer, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The jury found that Ms. Blitch was addicted to smoking, and the addiction to smoking was the legal cause of the cancer that caused her death. However, the jury also found that neither Liggett's actions nor the defective nature of the cigarettes was a legal cause of Ms. Blitch's death.