Miami—Rachel Baum’s late husband Paul suffered from a smoking-related respiratory disease for 20 years, including the last half-decade of his life that “bordered on the horrific,” Baum’s attorney told jurors in closing arguments before asking for up to $24.9 million in compensatory damages in the Engle progeny tobacco suit.
In presenting a range of damages based on per-hour calculations for both survivorship and wrongful death claims, plaintiff’s counsel Jeffrey Sloman reminded jurors of the progression of Paul Baum’s illness and Rachel’s efforts to care for him as his condition worsened until his death in 2012.
“She took full-time care of him beginning in 2003. She made his struggle better. She did everything on Earth to try and find some cure for him.” Sloman said. “When I say Rachel Baum is an angel on Earth, I’m not exaggerating.” Sloman told jurors Rachel Baum was entitled to between $16.6 million and $24.9 million on her survivorship claim or between $11.4 and $15.3 million on her wrongful death claim. Baum is also seeking punitive damages in the case.
Rachel Baum is suing tobacco manufacturers R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris Tobacco Co, and the Liggett Group, claiming their cigarette manufacturing and marketing practices led to Paul Baum’s respiratory disease and death. After recounting evidence of tobacco industry efforts to conceal smoking’s dangers while ensuring cigarettes remained addictive, Sloman asked, “Why do they claim my client is at fault? Mr. Baum’s fault in this case is that he didn’t try hard enough, he didn’t try soon enough, to quit smoking. That’s it. All the other things I just went through (are) on them. It’s what they did.”
Paul Baum, a smoker for 50 years, died from what Sloman characterized as a nearly 20-year battle with chronic obstructive respiratory disease. During his closing statement, Sloman reminded jurors of multiple medical reports that diagnosed Paul with COPD.
However, the tobacco manufacturers contend Paul Baum’s respiratory problems were actually caused by relapsing polychondritis, a rare cartilage disease unrelated to smoking, and that he ultimately died from a heart attack. Cory Hohnbaum, representing R.J. Reynolds, reminded jurors that only 10 out of 29 pulmonologists who examined Paul reported that he had COPD. Hohnbaum also recounted evidence that Paul had coronary artery disease and that “acute myocardial infarction” or heart attack, was listed as the immediate cause of death on his death certificate. In refuting plaintiff’s contention that the heart attack was related to Paul’s COPD, Hohnbaum said, “The notion that everybody dies from a heart attack… is simply not the case. Otherwise why would you even have a death certificate to tell you what people died from?”
Closings concluded, and the case went to the jury at about 5 p.m. this afternoon.