Jacksonville, FL— Attorneys Wednesday debated the root of a Florida smoker’s fatal cancer, as trial opened against R.J. Reynolds. Miller v. R.J. Reynolds, 2008-CA-000401.
Wayne Redburn started smoking as a teenager in the 1950s and continued smoking up to two packs of cigarettes a day until his 1995 cancer death, at 53. His estate's representative, Robert Miller, claims Reynolds, makers of the cigarettes Redburn smoked for much of that time, schemed to hide the dangers of smoking, leading to Redburn's nicotine addiction and cancer.
“They conspired to dispute and deny the truth about cigarettes, their ability to cause disease, and their ability to cause people to be dependant on them,” Terrell Hogan’s Wayne Hogan, representing Miller, told jurors Wednesday. “And that went on for decades, and decades, and decades.”
The case is among thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against Reynolds and other tobacco companies. The state's supreme court ultimately decertified the class, but ruled the cases, may be tried individually. Plaintiffs in the so-called Engle progeny cases are entitled to the benefit of the jury's findings in the original verdict, including the determination that tobacco companies placed a dangerous, addictive product on the market and conspired to hide the dangers of smoking.
However, in order to be entitled to those findings, plaintiffs must prove the smokers at the heart of their cases suffered from nicotine addiction that caused a smoking-related disease.
A key battle line in the case is the origin of Redburn’s cancer and whether it was caused by smoking. On Thursday, Hogan told jurors that, although doctors found cancer in Redburn’s brain, they determined that it spread from his lung.
But the defense argues there is no solid proof Redburn’s cancer began in his lungs. During Thursday’s openings, Jones Day’s Emily Baker told jurors doctors biopsied the seven samples of the nodule found in Redburn’s lung, but none of them revealed the growth was cancerous By contrast, Baker said the tumors in Redburn’s brain revealed he suffered from a relatively rare form of cancer. “Doctors, not surprisingly, suspected a lung cancer because Mr. Redburn had been a smoker,” Baker said. “But the pathology, the biopsies, they never confirmed it.”
Trial is expected to run through next week.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
Robert Miller is represented by Terrell Hogan’s Wayne Hogan and Angelo Patacca..
R.J. Reynolds is represented by Jones Day’s Emily Baker.
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