Plaintiff Wins Phase 1 of Koballa v. R.J. Reynolds Retrial

Posted by msch on Apr 4, 2011 12:25:00 PM

Dennis Pantazis and Ben Reid in Koballa RetrialKoballa v. Philip Morris (DeLand, Florida).

Koballa v. Philip Morris was originally tried in October, 2010, but that trial resulted in no verdict because the jury deadlocked over the question of addiction. The retrial began March 24, 2011, and on March 31, 2011, the second jury delivered a verdict on the issue of Engle class membership, concluding that Ms. Koballa was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, and the addiction was a legal cause of her illness.

In his closing argument on behalf of the plaintiff, Dennis Pantazis of Wiggins, Childs, Quinn & Pantazis told the jury Ms. Koballa had smoked 1.5 packs of cigarettes per day for 45 years, which represented a lifetime exposure of 4,927,500 doses of nicotine.

"I don't know how you can say she's not addicted," said Mr. Pantazis, "with two or three of the fact patterns that you heard. One of them: she ran out of cigarettes...she goes through the trash to find butts. That's how strong that addiction was. She smoked those butts with toothpicks because she did not want to put her mouth on the butt. Does that sound like a non-addicted person to you?...Another time she ran out of cigaretes in the middle of the night. She didn't even bother to dress: she put her jacket over her pajamas and ran out and bought cigarettes. None of these facts are disputed. Ms. Koballa is addicted."

For R.J. Reynolds, Carlton Fields' Benjamine Reid told the jury, "The plaintiff wants you to decide that smoking was a substantial contributing cause of Ms. Koballa's illness because smoking causes cancer and is addictive. Based on statistics, based on probabilities...We on the other hand are going to ask you to make that decision based on Ms. Koballa's medical case and her life history. And that's the distinction in this case...I would submit in this case...all these medical records and all of the medical testimony about these records demonstrate that if you take away smoking you would still have the same injury.

The jury found that Stella Koballa was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, and that the addiction was not a legal cause of her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but was a legal cause of her lung cancer (adenocarincoma). Phase 2 of the trial is underway.

CVN webcast Koballa v. R.J. Reynolds live.

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