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In Trial Against Philip Morris, Questions Surround Cause of 31-Year-Old Smoker's Deadly Cancer

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Sep 21, 2018 8:23:00 AM

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Miami—Questions surround the cause of a 31-year-old smoker's cancer, as closings loom next week at trial against Philip Morris over the man's death. Chadwell v. Philip Morris, 2010CA17931.

James Chadwell, who was a two-pack-a-day smoker by the time he was 15, and who would ultimately smoke up to three packs a day of his preferred Marlboros, died in 1993 after a year-long battle with cancer. His widow Brenda claims Philip Morris’ role in a tobacco industry-wide scheme to hide the dangers of cigarettes hooked her husband to nicotine and eventually led him to develop fatal lung cancer.

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The case is among thousands of similar claims spun from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a Florida class action tobacco suit originally filed in 1994. After a finding for the plaintiff class, the state’s supreme court ultimately ruled that class members’ cases—”Engle progeny cases”—must be tried individually on the link between nicotine addiction and each smoker’s disease. Each plaintiff that proves those elements can then rely on jury findings in the original case, including the determination that tobacco companies had placed a dangerous, addictive product on the market and had conspired to hide the dangers of smoking through much of the 20th century.

In openings of the case last week, Brenda Chadwell’s attorney, William Wichmann, of the Law Offices of William Wichmann, told jurors James Chadwell was so addicted to cigarettes he failed in numerous quit attempts and continued to smoke even while undergoing chemotherapy. Meanwhile, “the [tobacco] industry knew, if a smoker is addicted, then choice is not an issue. It’s because of the biology of the brain,” Wichmann said. 

While Wichmann contends evidence links Chadwell's heavy smoking to his cancer, the defense argues Chadwell likely did not suffer from smoking-related lung cancer at all. During last week’s openings, Kuchler, Polk, and Weiner’s Deborah Kuchler told jurors smoking-related lung cancer in someone Chadwell’s age is extraordinarily rare. Instead, Kuchler said, evidence would show Chadwell’s cancer likely stemmed from a random genetic mutation unrelated to cigarettes. “Simply put, smoking-related lung cancers just don’t happen in people as young as Mr. Chadwell,” Kuchler said.

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com

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Topics: Chadwell v. Philip Morris, Florida, tobacco