Espinosa v. Philip Morris Closings

Posted by msch on Nov 12, 2010 9:54:00 AM

Alex Alvarez and Kenneth ReillyEspinosa v. Philip Morris completed completed closing arguments today on both liability and damages.

Turning the defense argument around, plaintiff attorney Alex Alvarez told the jury that indeed the case was about "Opportunities and choices...Phililp Morris knew what the right thing to do was...Philip Morris and its executives knew the difference between right and wrong. Every time they had an opportunity to change the outcome for Maria Espinosa, they chose not to tell the truth, so they could profit...What motivated them to take certain paths? Every time they had an opportunity to change the path, and they didn't do it."

There's a reason why addicted people don't stop smoking even if it's killing them, Mr. Alvarez told the jury.  "If they were acting reasonable, then they would stop." That's the reason that the safety message works, Mr. Alvarez continued. "They want to find a reason to justify the addiction, to rationalize the addiction, to let them continue what they were doing...Half of the lung cancer patients who have a lung removed keep smoking. Forty percent of smokers who have had their larynx removed start smoking again. That's how powerful nicotine is."

"If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for ten years," Mr. Alvarez continued, "you're addicted. This lady was doing it for much longer than that...She got cancer from smoking, and she could not quit. That's key...She's got a hole in her throat and she could not stop. She's got a feeding tube in her stomach and she could not stop."

Mr. Alvarez completed his closing with a segment he titled, "Choice, Lies, and Videotape," and reviewed for the jury evidence demonstrating a gap between the cigarette company's private documents and their public statements, and an express strategy to create doubt about the health issues without denying it.

"Philip Morris preyed on the weakness of addicted smokers for money," said Mr. Alvarez, "and each time she lit up she relied on" their statements.

For the defense, Shook Hardy Bacon's Kenneth Reilly said that the entire case resolved down to simple issues. Once the jury determined who controlled Maria Espinosa's lifestyle-choice behavior (including smoking), and what caused her cancer, then they would be able to decide who had responsibility in this case.

Mr. Reilly defended the credentials and credibility of the defense witness on addiction, and suggested that the plaintiff's expert lacked credibility because he had not been shown any information about Maria Espinosa. According to Mr. Reilly, the plaintiff's own expert had said that nicotine was more like caffeine in its addictive nature than it was like heroin.

Mr. Reilly suggested that the jury might throw out all the expert testimony on addiction and rely on their common sense to determine whether Ms. Espinosa was able to quit smoking. The evidence was that she liked smoking, and did not want to quit. According to Mr. Reilly, she never expressed any regret about her decision to smoke cigarettes, she said that she was "at peace" with her decision to smoke, and that she said, "you gotta die of something."

CVN webcast Espinosa v. Philip Morris live.

Topics: Toxic Torts, Products Liability, Espinosa v. Philip Morris, Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation