Stuart, FL— Attorneys Wednesday argued over the root cause of a decades-long Florida smoker’s fatal cancer, as trial opened against R.J. Reynolds. Delancy v. R.J. Reynolds, 2008-CA-000067.
Eugene Delancy, 68, died in 1996 after smoking for more than 40 years. His family claims that he died of smoking-related lung cancer that spread to his brain. And they contend that tobacco industry messaging designed to hide the dangers of cigarettes and push filtered brands as safer alternatives hooked Delancy to nicotine and caused his death.
During Wednesday’s opening statements The Delancy family’s attorney, Richard Diaz, of the The Law Offices of Richard J. Diaz, walked jurors through decades of tobacco industry documents that he said showed Reynolds and other companies participated in a conspiracy to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking.
Delancy favored both unfiltered Camel-brand cigarettes and filtered, menthol Kools, a brand originally made by Brown & Williamson but ultimately taken over by Reynolds. Diaz argued Delancy’s switch between the two brands showed he was swayed by tobacco marketing, which touted Kools as easier on a smoker’s throat. “He’d smoke a Camel, which was his preferred brand, but then when it irritated his throat, the next [cigarette he smoked] would be a Kool,” Diaz said. “The reason why Mr. Delancy went from the unfiltered Camels to the Kools… matches [tobacco messaging], it’s a perfect fit.”
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 the cases, may be tried individually. Plaintiffs in the so-called Engle progeny cases 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 illness.
Reynolds questions whether Delancy had smoking-related lung cancer. During Wednesday’s openings, Jones Day’s Timothy Fiorta highlighted the sparse medical records that remained surrounding Delancy's illness, and he argued there were no test results that found cancer in Delancy’s lungs.
Moreover, Reynolds contends Delancy was not swayed by tobacco messaging but instead chose to smoke despite its risks. On Wednesday, Jones Day’s John Walker told jurors testimony would show Delancy enjoyed smoking and had no interest in quitting. “He did not want to stop smoking,” Walker said. “He smoked for 45 years or so, approximately, without ever trying to stop.”
Trial is expected to last through next week.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plaintiff is represented by Richard Diaz, of The Law Offices of Richard J. Diaz.
The defense is represented by Jones Day’s John Walker and Timothy Fiorta.
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