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Attorneys Debate Philip Morris' Role in Massachusetts Smoker's Death, as Trial Begins

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Aug 1, 2019, 2:24:16 PM

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Boston, MA— Jurors heard evidence over whether Philip Morris is responsible for a Massachusetts smoker’s death, as trial began this week against the tobacco giant. Laramie v. Philip Morris, 17CV02240.

Frederick Laramie, began smoking Philip Morris' Marlboros as a 13-year old and continued smoking for decades. He ultimately died in 2016, at 59, after a months-long battle with lung cancer. Laramie’s family claims the tobacco giant is to blame for Laramie’s death by making and marketing cigarettes it knew were addictive and dangerous. 

During Tuesday’s opening statements, Bernheim Dolinsky Kelley’s Walter Kelley told jurors Philip Morris marketed cigarettes with an eye toward hooking smokers, often at a young age, to nicotine. Kelley walked jurors through documents he said showed Philip Morris studied the psychology of smokers. 

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Kelley also highlighted evidence he said showed a Philip Morris research department years ago developed cigarettes without nicotine for the president of Philip Morris at the time, Clifford Goldsmith, because Goldsmith had been concerned about becoming addicted. “Philip Morris could have and should have made a cigarette that had very low levels of nicotine so that people could choose whether or not they wanted to continue smoking,” Kelley said. “They could’ve made them, ladies and gentlemen. They did make them. They just didn’t offer them to people like Fred Laramie. They gave him cigarettes that were addictive.”

But the defense argues Laramie knew the dangers of cigarettes, yet chose to smoke anyway. During Tuesday’s openings, Shook Hardy’s William Geraghty told jurors that every pack of cigarettes Laramie smoked bore warning labels, and Laramie was personally warned of smoking’s risks.

Geraghty noted Laramie and his wife quit smoking in 1999; but, while his wife did not smoke again, Laramie returned to cigarettes. “If Mr. Laramie had quit smoking for good at the end of 1999, when his wife quit, he probably would not have developed lung cancer in 2016. and none of us would be here today,” Geraghty said. “Mr. Laramie was not truly motivated to quit smoking until the end of his life. He enjoyed smoking. He wanted to smoke.”

Trial is expected to go through next week. 

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com.

Related Information

Pamela Laramie is represented by Bernheim Dolinsky Kelley’s Walter Kelley and Paula Bliss. 

Philip Morris is represented by Shook Hardy’s William Geraghty. 

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Topics: tobacco, Massachusetts, Laramie v. Philip Morris