Miami, FL— Attorneys debated whether Marlboro cigarettes were responsible for a Florida man’s cancer death, as trial opened Monday against Philip Morris. Monzon v. Philip Morris, 2008-CA-000110.
Alfredo Monzon died in 1995, just shy of his 50th birthday, after years of smoking. Monzon, a Cuban immigrant who settled in Miami in 1984, favored Philip Morris’ Marlboro brand cigarettes. His wife, Paulina Monzon, contends those cigarettes fueled his addiction to nicotine and caused his terminal lung cancer.
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, routine medical record purges since Monzon’s death have left scant documentary details surrounding his cancer and have created a key question at trial over whether Monzon’s disease began in his lungs.
During Monday’s openings, Paulina Monzon’s attorney, Jose Menendez, of Menendez Trial Attorneys, previewed evidence he said would prove Monzon suffered from primary lung cancer. Menendez pointed out that Monzon’s death certificate listed his cause of death as bronchogenic carcinoma - or lung cancer - and an available pathology report concluded he had suffered from cancer in his lungs. Meanwhile, Menendez said, the fact that much of Monzon's early treatment treatment focused on his lungs helped establish that the disease began there.
"The evidence points to nothing [being] done anywhere but the chest area in August ," Menendez said. "This is lung cancer."
But Philip Morris counters that there is no evidence definitively showing Monzon’s cancer originated in his lungs. During his opening statement Monday, Shook Hardy Bacon’s Bruce Tepikian argued the lone available pathology report only concluded Monzon had cancer in his lungs, it did not specify that the disease began there. Tepikian argued the lack of other records failed to prove the disease’s origin, while Paulina Monzon’s contention that doctors also found cancer in Monzon’s stomach established that the disease did not begin in his lungs.
“All of the experts agree,” Tepikian said, “that if Mr. Monzon had cancer in his stomach and in his lung, then the cancer in the lung was not a primary lung cancer.”
Trial is expected to last into next week.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
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