West Palm Beach, FL— Jurors Thursday cleared R.J. Reynolds of responsibility for the cancer death of a 42-year-old Florida woman who had smoked for more than two decades. Adamson v. R.J. Reynolds, 2016CA008532.
The jury in Florida’s 15th Circuit, needed about 3 hours to find nicotine addiction did not cause Jacklyn Adamson to develop primary lung cancer.
Adamson died in 1992, about a year after being diagnosed with cancer, and after about 25 years of smoking. Her family claims Reynolds’ part in a scheme to hide the dangers of cigarettes hooked Adamson to nicotine and ultimately caused her to develop lung cancer.
The case is among thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against Reynolds and other tobacco companies. The state's supreme court ultimately decertified the class, but ruled so-called Engle progeny cases may be tried individually. Plaintiffs are entitled to the benefit of the jury's findings in the original verdict, including the determination that tobacco companies placed a dangerous, addictive product on the market and conspired to hide the dangers of smoking.
However, in order to be entitled to those findings, plaintiffs must prove the smokers at the heart of their cases suffered from nicotine addiction that caused a smoking-related disease.
In addition to the issues of addiction and causation that are common points of contention in Engle progeny cases, parties battled over whether Adamson suffered from primary lung cancer or another form of the disease unrelated to smoking.
During Thursday’s closings, Morgan & Morgan’s James Clark told jurors doctors had reported Adamson had primary lung cancer that ultimately spread to her brain and Adamson’s death certificate reported her as dying from metastatic lung cancer. “She was being treated for primary lung cancer,” Clark said.
But the defense contends there was insufficient evidence to conclude Adamson had primary lung cancer. During Thursday’s closings, King & Spalding’s Kathryn Lehman told jurors many of the records surrounding Adamson’s cancer diagnosis and treatment had been shredded by her father, the original plaintiff in the case, leaving no direct evidence of the cancer’s origin. Meanwhile, Lehman said, Adamson’s age and the symptoms of her disease did not support a finding of primary lung cancer. “So when you get to question 1 [on causation],” Lehman said, “just based on medical alone, the answer is no.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Adamson is represented by Morgan & Morgan's James Clark and Antonio Luciano.
R.J. Reynolds is represented by King & Spalding’s Jeffrey Furr and Kathryn Lehman.
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