Engle Progeny Review for the Week of December 8

Posted by Courtroom View Network on Dec 12, 2014 6:58:00 PM

Dorothy Wilson, the daughter of Andrew Haliburton, details her father’s history of chain smoking. Haliburton’s widow, Dorothy, is suing R.J. Reynolds, claiming that Haliburton’s nicotine addiction caused his fatal COPD.

Haliburton v. R.J. Reynolds

West Palm Beach, FL—Thursday saw Dorothy Wilson, the daughter of Andrew Halburton, the deceased smoker at the heart of this suit against R.J. Reynolds, describe her father's heavy history of smoking. Wilson told jurors that her father would begin smoking soon after he awoke each morning, and she remembered that he smoked so heavily he would simetimes have more than one cigarette burning at a time. "He may start smoking one cigarette. Before he can finish it, he'd take the cigarette he had lit and light up another one," Wilson recalled. "He'd put (down) the one that lit (the second cigarette), puff off the second one... and he'd continue to smoke. Then he'd get one of the (burning) cigarettes out of the ashtray; he'd light up a third cigarette, and continue to smoke," she said. 

Andrew Haliburton, who smoked several different brands of R.J. Reynolds cigarettes over several decades, quit smoking in 1994 when he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died four years later, at age 60. Wilson said the effects of Haliburton's death still weigh on her mother Dorothy Haliburton, Andrew's widow and the suit's plaintiff. "They'd been married for over 40 years, and there are times she calls and you can tell, she misses him. He's not there. There's no one there," Wilson said. "She loved him. He loved her. He's gone."

Wilson also described the pervasiveness of smoking and cigarettes when she was a child, including the marketing of candy cigarettes and the number of stores in her neighborhood that allowed her to purchase cigarettes for her father. However, on cross examination, she acknowledged that she never began smoking herself because she regarded it as a "bad habit" or "addiction." She also acknowledged that her father had developed a cough before she moved out of her father's house in 1982. 

A potential key to the case is whether Haliburton should reasonably have known and sought medical attention for smoking-related respiratory problems prior to prior to May 5, 1990, a bar date for Engle progeny suits.

Wilson's presence on the witness stand followed more than three days of testimony from Robert Proctor, an expert on tobacco and tobacco industry marketing. Proctor detailed what Haliburton's attorneys contend was a concerted scheme by tobacco manufacturers, including Reynolds, to conceal the dangers of cigarettes. However, Proctor acknowledged on cross examination that he had no knowledge of whether Andrew Haliburton had ever heard tobacco industry claims regarding cigarettes.

Coming next week: The defense is expected to begin its case in chief next week. 

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Topics: Negligence, Products Liability, Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation, CVN Florida, Haliburton v. R.J. Reynolds, News