Viera, FL— In his second day of testimony, an expert on nicotine addiction told jurors that Jay Morse, the deceased smoker at the center of this Engle progeny tobacco suit, was severely addicted to cigarettes throughout his 40-plus years of smoking and that his addiction ultimately caused the cancer that killed him. Pearl Morse v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Dr. Shannon Miller, a specialist in addiction medicine, told jurors that Morse bore many of the hallmarks of addiction, including irritability when he attempted to reduce or quit smoking. Miller noted that Morse would leave movies and family events such as his son’s christening in order to smoke, and testified that if he had not smoked he likely would not have developed terminal lung cancer.
“If (Morse) wasn’t smoking, he’d probably…, in the absence of lung cancer that is, be walking this Earth,” Miller said.
Jay Morse died from lung cancer in 1995 after more than 40 years of smoking at least two packs of cigarettes a day. Morse’s widow, Pearl Morse, is suing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris Tobacco Co, claiming that their scheme to hide the dangers of smoking while intentionally producing cigarettes with nicotine led to Jay Morse’s addiction and the lung cancer that killed him.
Morse ’s addiction to nicotine is an essential element to the suit’s inclusion in the Engle class of cases. However, the tobacco manufacturers contend that Morse smoked by choice and not because of addiction. On cross examination, Miller acknowledged that, despite the fact that Jay Morse claimed to want to quit smoking, he never threw away his cigarettes and never attended a smoking cessation clinic.
Morse is a retrial of a 2012 proceeding that was declared a mistrial after a juror claimed that other members of the jury had predetermined a verdict. The suit is one of thousands of Florida’s Engle progeny, which stem from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision decertifying Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a class-action tobacco suit originally filed in 1994. Although the state’s supreme court ruled cases must be tried individually, it found each case’s plaintiffs could rely on certain 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. However, individual Engle progeny plaintiffs must prove a causal link between an addiction to smoking and their health problems in order to be entitled to the original case’s findings.