Each Friday we highlight the week’s Engle progeny tobacco trials, cases in the news, and look ahead to next week.
Trial opened Wednesday in Doris Bryant’s suit seeking damages for the 1996 lung cancer death of her husband Hayward Bryant. Openings made clear that the case may turn on the sufficiency of medical evidence. Many key medical records, including cancer biopsy results and information on Bryant’s cancer cell type, had been destroyed as part of routine records administration by the medical center that treated Bryant. RJR’s attorney, Stephen Kaczynski, told jurors that the medical evidence is insufficient to link Hayward Bryant’s smoking to his lung cancer. Conversely, Doris Bryant’s attorney, John “Hutch” Pinder, said expert medical testimony would provide the proof needed to establish that Bryant’s 39-plus-year smoking habit caused his lung cancer.
Kenneth Cummings, an expert on nicotine addiction and tobacco industry practices, led off plaintiff’s case in chief, detailing the progression of nicotine addiction and its effect on the brain. Cummings said he believed Hayward Bryant was “heavily addicted” to cigarettes, based on his persistent smoking and the fact that he failed in several attempts to quit smoking before his lung cancer diagnosis. Cummings also testified R.J. Reynolds and the tobacco industry at-large engaged in a long-term, comprehensive scheme to conceal the dangers of smoking.
On Friday morning, Dr. Allan Goldman, an internist and expert on lung disease, testified that available medical records showed Bryant suffered from primary lung cancer as opposed to a cancer that may have developed elsewhere. Goldman also testified that he believed, based on a CT scan of Bryant, a pathology inventory, and Bryant's long history of smoking, that cigarettes caused Bryant's cancer. On cross examination, however, Goldman acknowledged the lack of pathology reports, tissue samples, and other medical evidence to analyze Bryant’s disease.
Next week: The plaintiff will continue with its case in chief.
Attorneys gave opening statements Monday in the retrial of a 2012 proceeding CVN covered. Howard Acosta, attorney for Pearl Morse, told jurors that her husband Jay Morse’s 50 years of smoking Camel brand cigarettes led to his fatal lung cancer. Acosta said “the nature of (the tobacco) business is to addict people to nicotine” and that Jay Morse’s two-pack-a-day habit was a "death by a thousand cuts" that he was unable to avoid because of his addiction.
Conversely, R.J. Reynolds attorney Jeffrey Furr told jurors that Jay Morse knew the dangers of smoking throughout his life, yet chose to smoke and refused to listen to family members who urged him to quit. Furr also said that Jay Morse died from cancer because he did not have appropriate lung tests performed that would have diagnosed his disease as early as 1991. Instead Morse’s cancer was not officially diagnosed until 1994. He died from the disease in 1995.
Witness testimony throughout the week focused largely on Louis Kyriakoudes, a University of Southern Mississippi professor who testified about the tobacco industry’s marketing practices, its reliance on the addictiveness of nicotine to sell cigarettes, and the its attempts to conceal cigarettes’ health dangers.
Next week: Plaintiff will continue into the second week of its case. The defense is expected to begin its case in chief as early as the end of next week.