New Mexico Jury Clears Philip Morris in Trial Over Ex-Smoker's Cancer

Posted by Arlin Crisco on May 2, 2023 2:48:05 PM


Stock image. 

Socorro, NM— Philip Morris prevailed late last month at trial over the bladder cancer a New Mexico man claims was caused by the company's cigarettes. Ferrer v. Philip Morris, D-725-CV-201900132. 

A 12-member jury, in New Mexico state court’s 7th Judicial Circuit, unanimously cleared the tobacco company on product defect, negligence, and conspiracy claims brought by Richard Ferrer, who says he began smoking as a youth and continued for roughly 25 years, favoring Philip Morris’ Marlboro-brand cigarettes. Ferrer quit smoking in 1995, but doctors diagnosed him with bladder cancer approximately 20 years later. The disease ultimately spread to his lungs and is considered terminal.  


A key point of dispute in the nine-day trial was whether Philip Morris’ cigarettes were unreasonably dangerous. During his closing argument, Ferrer’s attorney, Bruster PLLC’s Anthony Bruster, argued evidence showed Philip Morris worked to make cigarettes as addictive as possible, despite knowing their dangers and having the ability to produce ultra-low nicotine, non-inhalable, or other safer options. 

“These folks designed a product that they know could be made safer…. [T]hat’s the end of the inquiry on [the] product claim,” Bruster said. “How do we know they know it could be made safer is that they’ve done it.”

But Philip Morris counters that cigarettes are inherently dangerous, and options raised by Ferrer’s attorneys were either impractical or did not eliminate the risks of smoking. During his closing, Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Bruce Tepikian pointed to evidence showing uninhalable cigarette variants still carried cancer risks. And he added that ultra-low nicotine options the company produced were considered dangerous by the public health community and rejected by consumers, rendering any potential benefit moot.  

“It’s like telling a beer company they can only sell non-alcoholic beer,” Tepikian said. “And how long do you think they’d stay in business if those were the rules of the game?”

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Topics: tobacco, product liability, New Mexico, Ferrer v. Philip Morris, et al.