Dr. Robert Cerfolio describes David Ellsworth’s lung cancer and its relationship to his years of smoking. Ellsworth’s stepdaughter Sherri Hubbird is suing R.J. Reynolds in one of Florida’s Engle progeny tobacco cases. R.J. Reynolds contends other factors, such as damage from a prior bout of tuberculosis, may have caused Ellsworth’s cancer. Click here to view the clip.
Miami—A thoracic surgeon testified be believed that decades of smoking, rather than tubercular scarring or dust exposure, was the main cause of the lung cancer that killed David Ellsworth, the focus of Hubbird v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., an Engle progeny tobacco suit.
Dr. Robert Cerfolio, a thoracic surgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, testified that Ellsworth's tumors contained several types of cancer cells, including adenocarcinoma, squamous cell, and bronchioloalveolar carcinomas. However, Cerfolio said it was the aggressive squamous cell and adenocarcinoma malignancies—often linked to smoking—that ultimately killed Ellsworth.
Ellsworth “developed a very aggressive cancer from smoking. And that cancer took his life,” Cerfolio said.
David Ellsworth, who ran a plaster business, died of lung cancer in 1994 after smoking for more than 40 years. His stepdaughter Sherri Hubbird has sued R.J. Reynolds, claiming Ellsworth’s smoking caused the cancer that killed him. However, R.J. Reynolds contends that other factors, such as exposure to plaster dust and a bout of tuberculosis that scarred Ellsworth's lung tissue, may have caused his cancer.
Cerfolio, who reviewed Ellsworth’s medical records but never treated him, testified that pathology reports listed bronchioloalveolar carcinoma, or BAC within Ellsworth's tumors. BAC is a subgroup of adenocarcinoma not typically linked with smoking. However, Cerfolio said the BAC composed only a small part of Ellsworth’s tumors, which also included squamous cell and another subtype of adenocarcinoma. Cerfolio said symptoms of Ellsworth’s cancer, which ultimately invaded his lymph nodes and arteries, were not common with BAC. “(A) pure BAC wouldn’t appear in a man who smoked,” Cerfolio said. “A pure BAC wouldn’t have a six centimeter squamous cell (carcinoma) growing through the ribs, growing into arteries. A pure BAC would be a… cute little bunny hanging out in the lung. It wouldn’t be going in the lymph nodes, wouldn’t be causing pain, wouldn’t be going through chest wall.”
“I think the squamous cell and the adeno together. Both of those were what led to his eventual death,” Cerfolio testified.
However, Todd Davis, representing R.J. Reynolds, challenged Cerfolio’s interpretation of the medical records. Davis highlighted a pathologist’s report that described one tumor as “predominantly” BAC, and noted that tissue from both tumors appeared scarred. Cerfolio acknowledged that such scarring could be caused by tuberculosis and exposure to dust. However, he added "it could also be caused by cigarette smoke."
Plaintiffs must prove Ellsworth’s cancer was caused by smoking in order to be considered members of the Engle class. Hubbird, like other Engle progeny cases, arises from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision decertifying Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 class action suit. Although the state’s supreme court ruled Engle cases must be tried individually, it found qualifying Engle progeny plaintiffs could rely on certain jury findings in the original case, including the conclusion that tobacco companies sold a dangerous, addictive product.
The trial, which opened on August 14, resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m.