Florida Jury Clears Philip Morris & RJR of Responsibility for Reverend's Lung Cancer Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Oct 31, 2022 2:21:00 PM


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Quincy, FL— The nation’s two largest cigarette makers prevailed last week at trial over the cancer death of a Florida reverend who had smoked for decades. Anderson v. R.J. Reynolds, et al., 2020-CA-000757.

Jurors in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit, in Gadsden County, deliberated less than two hours before concluding nicotine addiction was not a legal cause of Hosey Anderson’s 1994 lung cancer death, clearing Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds of liability in the case. 

Anderson’s family contends the two tobacco companies, which make the Marlboros and Kents Anderson smoked during his life, are responsible for the former railroad worker and reverend’s death by hiding the dangers of smoking through much of the 20th century. 

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 on defective design, fraud, and conspiracy claims, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class. It ruled individual Engle progeny plaintiffs can recover only if they prove the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that caused a smoking-related illness.


The 7-day trial turned largely on what drove Anderson to smoke. During closings last week, the Anderson family’s attorney, Richard Diaz, of Richard J. Diaz, P.A., highlighted evidence he said showed Anderson was a chain smoker who was powerfully hooked to cigarettes and unable to quit for years. 

“If someone is chain smoking one cigarette after another for 30 or 40 years and they tried to quit and they haven’t been able to,” Diaz said, “are they not addicted?”

But the defense argued Anderson chose to smoke despite knowing the dangers of cigarettes and was not interested in quitting before he became ill. During his closing argument, Philip Morris’ attorney, Shook Hardy & Bacon’s William Geraghty, reminded jurors of evidence that, even in his 70s, Anderson rejected family members’ pleas to quit cigarettes. 

“Mr. Anderson knew that he could get sick from smoking, but at that point in his life he was in good health for a man in his 70s and he had no real interest in quitting,” Geraghty said.

And Reynolds’ attorney, Jones Day’s Jack Williams, told jurors evidence showed Anderson made no serious efforts to quit until 1993, a year before his cancer death. 

“The evidence shows that addiction did not drive Hosey Anderson’s smoking,” Williams said. “His desire and enjoyment of smoking did.”

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Topics: tobacco, Engle Progeny, Florida, Anderson v. R.J. Reynolds, et al.