Jewett v. RJR, Lorillard, and Liggett begins

Posted by msch on May 10, 2011 10:35:00 AM

Woody Wilner and Peter Biersteker and Roger Geary AttorneysJewett v. R.J. Reynolds (Jacksonville, Florida)

Thomas Jewett's wife, Barbara Jewett, was born in 1955 and died in 2006 as a result of complications arising from an attempted lung transplant to combat emphysema (COPD) caused by smoking.

Wilner Hartley's Woody Wilner told the jury that Ms. Jewett was in fact first diagnosed with COPD in 1995, and she was shocked by the diagnosis. Therefore, said Mr. Wilner, the jury should reject the cigarette companies' claim that Ms. Jewett's lawsuit was time-barred because she should have known that she had COPD by May of 1990, even though she subsequently misstated that she had been diagnosed with COPD much earlier than 1995.

Mr. Wilner concluded that the three questions before the jury were "no brainers": Ms. Jewett filed her claim on time, her death resulted from emphysema, and she was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine.

Representing R.J. Reynolds, Jones Day's Peter Biersteker told the jury that Ms. Jewett knew she had the symptoms of COPD before May 5, 1990; she knew before May 5, 1990, that her COPD was caused by her smoking; no addiction caused Ms. Jewett to continue smoking; and Ms. Jewett's death resulted from thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), as noted on her death certificate.

"I'm not here to tell you that my client never did anything wrong," said Mr. Biersteker. "There were periods in the history of these tobacco companies that were not their finest hour." But, Mr. Biersteker told the jury, the advertisements and internal documents shown by the plaintiff were like a sports blooper reel, showing the tobacco companies' worst moments, but not accurately, because they lacked context -- and in any case they did not relate to the issues in the case.

According to Mr. Biersteker, Ms. Jewett consistently told her doctors that her COPD started before May 5, 1990.

Representing Lorillard, Shook Hardy Bacon's Roger Geary told the jury that although Lorillard agreed that smoking can be addictive in some people, Ms. Jewett was not addicted because cigarettes did not control her, nor did they impair her daily activities, like working and taking care of the family. When she wanted to quit she quit, with no problems. Moreover, she refrained from smoking in places where it was important to her to not smoke.

CVN webcast the Thomas Jewett tobacco trial live.

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