Closing Arguments in Betty Allen v. RJR

Posted by msch on Apr 19, 2011 10:57:00 AM

Brian Denney Geoffrey Beach Hardee BassBetty Allen v. R.J. Reynolds (Tampa, Florida)

In his closing argument, Brian Denny of Searcy Denny told the jury, “There’s no question that Herman Allen was a stand-up guy, there’s no question that he was strong willed, there’s no question that he was a hard worker, but that doesn’t mean that he was immune to the addictive power of nicotine.”

As to whether smoking cigarettes manufactured by defendants was a legal cause of Mr. Allen’s death, Mr. Denny flatly told the jury, “The evidence in the case is overwhelming to support that.”

In urging the jury to find punitive damages, Mr. Denny stated, “We’ve talked about the scales of justice, and I’m sure you all have seen a picture of lady justice – she’s got a blindfold on, she’s holding the scales, and in her other hand she has a sword…the sword is to punish, the sword is for defendants like this and when they get up here making all the excuses for all of this bad behavior… just ask yourself, what kind of world we would live in if we let them get away with that.”

Representing R.J. Reynolds was Geoffrey Beach of Jones Day, who told the jury that nicotine was not the legal cause of Mr. Allen’s cancer.  “There are 2 reasons why addiction was not the legal cause of Mr. Allen’s cancer. First, he could quit. We know that addiction didn’t trump his ability to quit. He did in 1970 and he did in 1994. Second of all, the other times, he wasn’t interested in quitting. He didn’t try to quit…Mr. Allen was always in control of his fate...”

Mr. Beach also indicated that the location and type of lung cancer Mr. Allen suffered from was evidence that it was caused by asbestos, not nicotine.

On behalf of Phillip Morris, Annie Chuang of Shook, Hardy & Bacon told the jury, “Because Mr. Allen was in control of his smoking, because he knew the dangers and risks of smoking and chose to smoke despite knowing those risks, and because he could quit and it was demonstrated he did quit, we submit that the only fair and just verdict in this case is a verdict for Phillip Morris U.S.A. and R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company.”

In his rebuttal argument, Hardee Bass of Searcy Denny hammered the point of Mr. Allen’s addiction: “There’s no definition of addiction -- none -- that includes within it that someone is not addicted if they’re able to quit. Let’s not confuse ability to quit, motivation to quit, the fact that Mr. Allen quit and relapsed, the fact that when his granddaughter…asked him to quit he hung his head in shame…”  

Mr. Bass concluded with, “The damages we suggested to you are reasonable for what this woman lost, Herman Allen relied to his detriment on the omissions and concealments of these defendants, and if ever there was a case where punitive damages were warranted, it’s this case here.”

CVN is webcasting Betty Allen v. R.J. Reynolds live.

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