Sury v. R.J. Reynolds (Jacksonville, Florida)
A jury reached a $1 million verdict Monday morning in the Sury v. RJ Reynolds Engle Tobacco trial. Specifically they found the plaintiff, William Sury, 60% at fault with the remaining fault split between RJ Reynolds and Lorillard evenly, each with 20%. There were no punitive damages awarded.
William Sury started smoking by the age of 21 in 1941. In the early 1990s he tried several times to quit by using nicotine patches. He successfully quit in 1995, months before he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Over the next two years he underwent chemotherapy and radiation. William died in May of 1997.
Echoing the arguments of the other Engle tobacco trials, Shamp focused in on the addictive nature of cigarettes. She elaborated during her opening statement, “Their product was addiction and what they wanted to do was to continue to addict generations of Americans to their product. They weren’t out to sell one carton. They were out to sell carton, after carton, after carton.”
The two defense attorneys took different strategies. John Williams of Jones Day represented RJ Reynolds. Williams asserted throughout the trial that the medical causation of Sury’s death was unknown due to missing paperwork. David Woods, of Shook Hardy & Bacon represented Lorillard. Woods argued that Sury was an informed, adult smoker who was in control of his smoking decisions.
“[We are] not disputing that smoking can cause lung cancer or that smoking can be addictive. At the end of the day, ask yourself who was in control of Mr. Sury’s smoking decisions. Was it Lorillard or Mr. Sury?”
This trial was another, in a long list of lawsuits that have sprung up since the 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision that decertified the tobacco class action initially filed by Howard Engle. That decision allows class members to individually sue for damages related to their various health issues.