Willie Gary, representing Dorothy Haliburton in her suit against R.J. Reynolds, tells jurors that the tobacco manufacturer lied about the dangers and addictiveness of cigarettes. Haliburton's husband, Andrew, died from COPD after decades of smoking.
West Palm Beach, FL—Trial opened Wednesday in Dorothy Haliburton’s suit against R.J. Reynolds for the 1998 death of her husband, Andrew Haliburton.
Andrew Haliburton, a smoker for decades, quit the habit in 1994 after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but died four years later, at age 60. A critical issue for the jury’s determination is whether Haliburton should have known that he may have suffered from a smoking-related respiratory disease prior to May 5, 1990, a bar date for Engle progeny suits. In opening statements Tuesday, Howard Acosta, representing Dorothy Haliburton, told jurors that Haliburton may not have noticed the tell-tale signs of COPD prior to the 1990 bar date because of his relatively sedentary lifestyle. “If you’re not out jogging every morning, you might not feel short of breath, because you’re not using enough Oxygen to know that your lung capacity is being slowly reduced,” Acosta said.
However, King & Spalding’s W. Ray Persons, representing Reynolds, told jurors that Haliburton exhibited a variety of symptoms prior to May 1990 that should have alerted him to the possibility that he was developing a smoking-related illness. Persons told jurors that they would hear about “the difficulty (Haliburton) was having breathing, the difficulty he was having with a persistent, productive cough that was loud enough that anybody in the house can hear it,” before May 1990.
Early testimony in the case focused on Haliburton’s smoking history and whether he was addicted to nicotine, a critical element to recover in an Engle progeny suit. On Thursday, Dr. Allan Feingold, an internal medicine specialist and expert on smoking-related diseases, testified that Haliburton bore the hallmarks of an addicted smoker. However, during cross examination on Friday morning, Feingold acknowledged there were discrepancies in the records he reviewed concerning how long and how much Haliburton smoked. Conceding that Haliburton could have quit smoking prior to 1994, Feingold added “People who are addicted can stop smoking, but they’re very unlikely to do so.”
Next week: Dorothy Haliburton's attorneys will move into the heart of their case.
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