Vero Beach, FL— As trial opened in a widower’s Engle progeny suit, opposing counsel debated whether the long-time smoker at the suit’s center was the victim of a tobacco industry conspiracy to hide the dangers of cigarettes, or a woman who chose to smoke despite family pleas to quit. Robert Gore v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Robert Gore, the widowed husband of Gloria Gore, sued tobacco manufacturers R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, claiming his wife’s 40-plus-year smoking habit caused her carotid stenosis in the early 1990s and her eventual lung cancer, from which she died in 2000.
Gore’s attorney, Stephen Corr, told jurors that Gloria began smoking at 14, while unaware of the risks, and quickly became addicted, smoking 1-2 packs of cigarettes a day for much of her life. Describing the case in terms of choices, Corr said Gloria was partially responsible for her smoking-related illnesses. However, Corr argued that defendants bore responsibility for their part in covering up evidence of smoking’s dangers while furthering the nicotine addiction of Gloria Gore and other smokers. "Gloria wanted to stop. She tried to stop,” Corr said. “She chose to stop, but her addiction wouldn’t let her.”
However, Robert McCarter, representing Philip Morris, said Gloria Gore enjoyed smoking and chose to continue the habit, despite knowing its dangers. McCarter played portions of videotaped deposition from Robert Gore in which Robert said his wife refused to quit smoking after her father died from smoking-related lung cancer. Gloria "made it clear over the years that Mr. Gore, her doctors, her children, her parents, nobody was going to convince her to quit smoking, because she wanted to smoke," McCarter said.
McCarter also argued Gloria’s carotid stenosis was likely caused by high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease, rather than smoking. “(The plaintiff’s counsel wants) you to believe that cigarette smoking was the cause of Mrs. Gore’s clogged artery,” McCarter said. “But, of course her non-smoking mother, her non-smoking sister, her two non-smoking grandmothers, smoking couldn’t have been the cause of theirs,” McCarter said. Robert Gore must establish that Gloria’s carotid stenosis was caused by smoking because it was the only condition that “manifested” itself by the November 21, 1996 cut-off date for Engle class membership.