Fatal Lung Cancer Suit's Opening Is the Focus of the Engle Progeny Review for the Week of March 2

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Mar 9, 2015 8:32:00 AM

John Walker tells jurors that Marion Dion, the deceased smoker at the heart of this suit against his client, R.J. Reynolds, did not make a concerted effort to quit smoking until less than three years before her lung cancer diagnosis. Dion's widower is suing R.J. Reynolds, claiming his wife's nicotine addiction caused her fatal cancer. Click the image above for a clip from opening statements, or click here for the full trial. 

Dion v. R.J. Reynolds

Sarasota, FL—The issue of whether nicotine addiction caused a 40-plus-year smoker’s fatal lung cancer took center stage as trial opened Thursday in  a wrongful death suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

William Wichmann told jurors in openings that Marion Dion was so addicted to nicotine that she failed in multiple quit attempts over the course of several decades and successfully stopped smoking only after spending more than a year using nicotine patches. "She used the nicotine patch for 14 months before she was finally eventually able to quit," Wichmann said. "Just because she was finally able to quit, in the Summer of '93 doesn't mean that she wasn't addicted. We'll bring you experts that will tell you that's addiction in remission."

Watch Video from Tobacco Trials Within 2 years of quitting smoking, however, doctors diagnosed Dion with lung cancer that Wichmann told jurors spread to her leg and hip. Dion died in October 1994. Her husband, George Dion, is suing R.J. Reynolds in this Engle progeny case, claiming that the company's aggressive marketing and concealment of smoking's health effects led to his wife's nicotine addiction and ultimately, her cancer. During Thursday morning's openings, Wichmann, George Dion's attorney, told jurors that many of Marion's attempts to quit smoking lasted no more than a day or two because of the strength of her addiction. 

However, Jones Day’s John Walker, representing Reynolds, argued that Marion’s one and two-day quit attempts prior to 1990 were half-hearted efforts and signaled that she did not truly want to quit smoking. Walker told jurors that the evidence would show Marion did not make a concerted attempt to quit until the 1990s, when she began using nicotine substitutes such as gum and patches. “She did things in the early 90s, she tried things, methods to quit smoking that she had never tried before then, and that’s when she succeeded at quitting smoking,” Walker said. Prior to that, Walker told jurors, “Mrs. Dion was not interested in quitting smoking, and it was not a priority for her.”

Next week: Dr. Kenneth Michael Cummings is expected to testify concerning cigarette manufacture and tobacco industry marketing tactics through much of the latter half of the 20th century.

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Topics: Negligence, tobacco, Engle Progeny, Florida, Engle Progeny Review, Dion v. R.J. Reynolds