As Trial Opens Against Philip Morris, Attorneys Debate Timeline Surrounding Smoker's Fatal Cancer

Posted by Arlin Crisco on May 21, 2024 2:57:49 PM


Stock image. 

Miami, FL— The timeline surrounding a Florida smoker’s deadly lung cancer promised to play a key role in his family’s claim against Philip Morris, as trial opened Monday against the tobacco giant. Garcia v. Philip Morris, et al., 2017-CA-005523. 

Manuel Garcia, then 56, died of lung cancer in 1998 after smoking for decades. His family claims Philip Morris, maker of the Marlboros Garcia smoked for more than 20 years, is responsible by manufacturing cigarettes it knew were addictive and dangerous and conspiring to hide those dangers through much of the latter half of the 20th century. 

The case is one of thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against Reynolds and the nation's other tobacco companies. After a trial court verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on defective design, fraud, and conspiracy claims, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class. It ruled individual, so-called, “Engle progeny” plaintiffs can only recover if they prove the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that caused a smoking-related illness “manifesting” between May 5, 1990 and November 21, 1996. 


With available medical records showing Garcia was officially diagnosed with lung cancer in June 1997, whether Garcia showed symptoms of the disease prior to the November 1996 Engle class membership cutoff date serves as a central battle line in the case. 

On Monday, Freidin Brown’s Philip Freidin, representing Garcia’s family, previewed evidence surrounding Garcia’s cancer and the timeline surrounding its diagnosis. Freidin noted that Garcia was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a slow-growing cancer,  which he said evidence would show had become a large mass by the time it was discovered in June 1997. And Freidin said evidence would show Garcia had symptoms of the disease, with a cough noticed by Garcia’s wife, Gloria, as far back as February 1996. 

“It’s something that would be a year or two in its progress,” Freidin said. “It’s not just Gloria Garcia’s testimony, but it’s science and medicine.”

But the defense contends that there is insufficient evidence to prove Garcia suffered symptoms of his lung cancer before the Engle cutoff date. On Monday, Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Lindsay Heinz told jurors that Gloria Garcia’s testimony concerning her husband’s cough in February 1996 was not supported by any medical documentation. Heinz added that medical records didn’t show any lung cancer symptoms, such as facial swelling and shortness of breath, until May 1997 and no cough was reported until June of that year. 

“The bottom line is that you’re going to see a lot of objective evidence on… symptoms that occurred after the [cutoff] date,” Heinz said. “But on this critical issue of any symptoms before the date, Mrs. Garcia stands alone.”

Trial is expected to run through next week. 

Email Arlin Crisco at

Related information

Watch the trial. 

Not a subscriber?

Learn how you can access an unrivaled trial video library. 


Topics: tobacco, Florida, Garcia v. Philip Morris, et al.