$3M to Family of Smoker Who Died From COPD

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Nov 24, 2014 12:24:00 PM

Keith Mitnick tells jurors that Patricia Dawn Allen’s addiction to cigarettes was a cause of her fatal chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mitnick represents Andy Allen, who is suing tobacco manufacturers R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, claiming their concealment of smoking’s health hazards led to his wife’s nicotine addiction and death. Jurors awarded Allen more than $3 million in compensatory damages today. Click here if you cannot watch the clip above.

Jacksonville, FL—A jury found R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA liable for $3.094 million in damages for the death of Patricia Dawn Allen, who died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after decades of smoking the tobacco manufacturers' cigarettes.

Allen, who started smoking in 1966, when she was 18, smoked between 1 and 3 packs of cigarettes a day for more than 35 years, before her death in 2009. Her husband, Andy Allen, sued Reynolds and Philip Morris as part of Florida’s Engle progeny tobacco litigation, claiming that the tobacco manufacturers’ concealment of smoking’s dangers led to Patricia’s addiction and her fatal COPD.

The jury’s verdict, which also found Reynolds and Philip Morris liable for potential punitive damages to be determined in a second phase of trial, found Patricia 70% at fault for her respiratory disease, and apportioned 24% and 6% to Reynolds and Philip Morris, respectively. The total award, which could be reduced based on the apportionment of liability, included $2.204 million for Andy Allen’s pain, suffering, and loss of companionship and $890,000 for the pain, suffering, and loss of companionship for Patricia's daughter, Amber.

Throughout trial, both sides disputed whether nicotine addiction led to Patricia's COPD and death, a requirement to recover damages in an Engle progeny case. During closing arguments Friday, Jones Day's Mark Belasic, representing Reynolds, reminded jurors of evidence that Patricia smoked to maintain her weight and ease stress, and never tried to quit smoking until after she was diagnosed with a respiratory disease. “We know that her choice not to quit before 1996 is what led to her disease” Belasic said. “She made a choice not to try to quit during a 30-year period when her own doctor says, if she quits, she doesn't get the disease. And, but for that choice, she doesn't get COPD.”

However, Morgan & Morgan's Keith Mitnick, representing Andy Allen, argued in closings that Patricia's failure to mount a concerted effort to quit smoking prior to her 1992 COPD diagnosis served only to establish the strength of her nicotine addiction. “If addiction doesn't play a part in why someone smokes enough to get sick, what is addiction?” he said. "It (becomes) a word without meaning."

Proceedings are scheduled to resume tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., where the jury will hear evidence on the tobacco manufacturers’ potential punitive liability.

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Topics: Negligence, Products Liability, Andy Allen v. RJR, Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation, Mass Torts, CVN Florida, News