Shook, Hardy & Bacon's Robert McCarter, representing Philip Morris, details a timeline of Jose Vila's smoking history for jurors. Vila claims Philip Morris's misrepresentation of smoking's health effects led to his nicotine addiction and laryngeal cancer.
After three days of jury selection, trial opened Thursday in Jose Vila's suit seeking damages for the loss of his larynx, which he claims was caused by smoking-related throat cancer.
Vila, 60, began smoking at 15 and continued the habit for more than 24 years, quitting only after doctors diagnosed him with laryngeal cancer in 1994. Vila's larynx was removed two years later to treat a recurrence of the cancer.
Videotaped deposition testimony from tobacco expert Robert Proctor led off Vila's case in chief Thursday afternoon, as plaintiff's attorneys sought to establish that the tobacco industry misrepresented the health effects and addictive nature of smoking for decades, while continuing to aggressively market their products. Proctor detailed years' worth of tobacco industry tactics, including the support of controversial scientific organizations and aggressive marketing through public relations firms to cast doubt about the dangers of smoking. Detailing the industry's reliance on public relations agency Hill & Knowlton as far back as the 1950s, Proctor said "They used this PR firm to contact the press, to create a favorable image, really to whitewash cigarettes and make them appear safe again to the public eye.
"It was entirely a public relations effort. It was to reassure the public that it was safe to smoke."
However, the defense argued that Vila, who began smoking while growing up in Spain, was not influenced by the U.S. tobacco marketing strategies Proctor detailed. In opening statements prior to Proctor's testimony, Shook, Hardy & Bacon's Robert McCarter, representing Philip Morris, told jurors Proctor's testimony regarding tobacco marketing tactics did not apply to Vila. "There's no evidence that anything you're going to see when you watch that video, reached Mr. Vila, much less had any impact on his decisions," McCarter said.
Coming next week: Vila's attorneys are expected to move to the heart of their case in chief.
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