Betty Allen v. R.J. Reynolds (Tampa, Florida)
Betty Allen brought this suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Phillip Morris for the death of her husband in 1994 at the age of 64. Herman Allen began smoking cigarettes as a teenager in the mid-1940s and continued to smoke until months before his death from small cell lung cancer.
Betty Allen alleges that defendants heavily marketed their cigarettes to teenagers so that they would get addicted to nicotine and become “customers for life.” Herman Allen, she claims, became a customer for life at his peril.
Hardee Bass of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley told the jury, “This is a case about personal responsibility; it is a case about choices…ask yourselves about corporate responsibility, ask yourselves at every turn about the choices that the tobacco companies made…ask yourselves about the choices to meet together in 1953…ask about their choices to attack the surgeon general when the surgeon general was trying to get information out to the public.
Representing Phillip Morris, Jonathan Stern of Arnold & Porter told the jury that Herman Allen knew that smoking was dangerous. In fact, he grew up in a household that prohibited smoking. Mr. Stern also told the jury, “The evidence in this case will show that addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine did not cause Mr. Allen’s death…Mr. Allen chose to smoke, and that choice was his choice.
Mr. Stern also indicated that asbestos, not nicotine, was the substantial contributing cause to Mr. Allen’s death.
Representing R.J. Reynolds, Geoffrey Beach of Jones Day told the jury, “Ultimately it’s a question of control. Was Mr. Allen in control?...Mr. Allen did what he wanted to do no matter what…Mr. Allen made his own decisions about how he lived his life…His choice to smoke was nonnegotiable.”
Questions the jury will have to decide are whether Herman Allen was addicted to nicotine and whether the addiction caused the disease that killed him.