Miami, FL— Philip Morris prevailed Wednesday at trial over the death of a Florida Marlboro cigarette smoker, after jurors concluded he did not have primary lung cancer. Monzon v. Philip Morris, 2008-CA-000110.
The Florida 11th Circuit Court jury, in Dade County, deliberated less than three hours before reaching the conclusion, clearing Philip Morris of responsibility for Alfredo Monzon's 1995 death.
Monzon smoked Philip Morris’ Marlboro cigarettes for years before his death, just short of his 50th birthday. His wife, Paulina Monzon, contends cigarettes fueled his addiction to nicotine and caused him to develop lung cancer that ultimately killed him.
The lawsuit is one of thousands of so-called Engle-progeny cases, claims spun from a 1990s class action by Florida smokers against the nation’s tobacco companies. After a trial court verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class, ruling individual plaintiffs could recover only if they proved the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that caused a disease such as lung cancer.
However, because routine medical records purges left relatively little documentary evidence surrounding Monzon’s cancer, its origin served as a key battle line between the parties at trial.
During Wednesday’s closings, Paulina Monzon’s attorney, Parafinczuk Wolf’s Austin Carr, walked jurors through evidence he said established Monzon suffered from primary lung cancer following years of smoking. Carr noted statistics linking smoking to lung cancer. And he pointed to an available pathology report from Monzon’s treatment concluding he suffered from cancer in his lungs, followed by a death certificate listing Monzon’s primary cause of death as bronchogenic carcinoma - which Carr said equated to lung cancer.
“Did Alfredo Monzon have lung cancer? Well, of course,” Carr told jurors. “But that’s a decision you’ve got to make.”
But Philip Morris contends there is insufficient proof Monzon’s cancer actually began in his lungs. Instead, the company claims evidence points to cancer beginning in Monzon’s stomach before spreading to his lungs.
During his closing argument Wednesday, Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Robert Simpson pointed to the lack of medical records he said were necessary to prove Monzon’s cancer began in his lungs. Simpson noted only one pathology document remained concerning Monzon's cancer, and that report only detailed that Monzon had cancer in his lungs, not that the disease originated there.
“How can one prove a case based on one page of medical records?” Simpson asked. “They came to court to prove a primary lung cancer… with this one page.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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