Each Friday we highlight the week’s Engle progeny tobacco trials and look ahead to next week.
This week's Engle trial featured deposition testimony on Monday from Dr. Elaine Engleman, the radiologist who analyzed an MRI of Barbara Lourie, the smoker whose cancer death sparked the suit. Engleman testified that a 1997 note on one of Lourie's medical records indicating Lourie had a history of metastatic breast cancer was likely a typo and that other available medical records indicated Lourie had lung cancer that ultimately metastasized throughout her body.
Engleman's testimony was bolstered later in the week by Dr. Luis Villa, a pathologist who examined Lourie's available medical records. Villa told jurors that the type of cancer Lourie was diagnosed with commonly originated in the lung, and that it was likely caused by Lourie's 40-year smoking habit. "Her life came to an end because of cancer of the lung," Villa said.
However, on cross-examination, both Engleman and Villa acknowledged that the destruction of key medical records made it difficult to say with complete certainty that Lourie suffered from primary lung cancer.
Barbara's husband James Lourie is suing the tobacco manufacturers, claiming her addiction to cigarettes caused her lung cancer. However, defendants argue that the lack of key medical records makes it impossible to determine whether Barbara suffered from primary lung cancer or cancer that metastasized into her lungs. They also contend that Barbara was a smoker by choice rather than because of addiction.
In support of plaintiff's claim of addiction, Barbara Lourie's son Michael testified this week that his mother smoked constantly. "It would be an anomaly if she didn't have a cigarette," he said.
Michael Lourie said the only times throughout a typical day that he didn't remember his mother smoking were when she physically could not smoke, such as when she was showering, sleeping, or eating. Michael also said that, his mother tried to quit smoking, including visiting a smoking cessation representative and hiding her cigarettes. However, he told jurors that she quickly returned to smoking after each failed attempt.
"I believe she was completely addicted," Michael said. "She could not stop. She wanted to. She tried to, and she just literally could not. It was a compulsion."
On cross exam, however, Michael acknowledged that he was never aware of his mother quitting for more than a day and that, prior to 1987, he never heard his mother say that she wanted to quit smoking.
Later in the week, Robert Proctor, a tobacco industry expert and author of Golden Holocaust: Origin of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition, walked jurors through the history of tobacco manufacturing and marketing. Proctor detailed jurors of tobacco leaders' decision in the 1960s to conceal the dangers of smoking while continuing to market their product. Proctor also described the tobacco industry's support of ostensibly scientific groups whose purpose was to serve as a counterpoint to the ever-increasing evidence regarding the link between smoking and disease.
However, on cross examination, Proctor acknowledged that some epidemiological studies from the 60s through the 80s supported tobacco company's health-related claims, such as the relative safety of filtered cigarettes. Proctor also acknowledged that key tobacco industry leaders who agreed to conceal the harmful effects of smoking from the public were no longer with their respective companies.
Next week: The plaintiff is expected to conclude its case in chief sometime next week.