R.J. Reynolds and Retailers Prevail at Trial Over New Mexico Lung Cancer Patient's Death During Pandemic

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Feb 23, 2024 12:47:36 PM


Stock image. 

Santa Fe, NM— Jurors Thursday cleared R.J. Reynolds and a pair of retail chains of responsibility for the death of a New Mexico man who had smoked for decades. Youngers (Archuleta) v. R.J. Reynolds, et al., D-101-CV-2020-01693. 

The First Judicial District (New Mexico) State Court jury deliberated roughly three hours before clearing Reynolds on defective design, negligent marketing, and conspiracy claims stemming from the death of Edward Archuleta, at age 79. The New Mexico man, who began smoking in the mid-1950s when he was about 14, died in 2020 of complications related to coronavirus, after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. 

Jurors also cleared retailers Allsup’s Convenience Stores, Inc. and Brewer Oil Co. on claims of selling defective products to Archuleta. 

The eight-day trial focused in large part on whether Reynolds cigarettes were defectively designed. During Thursday’s closings,  Bruster PLLC’s Anthony Bruster, representing the plaintiff, reminded jurors of evidence, including internal company documents, that he said showed Reynolds engineered cigarettes to be as addictive as possible, all while knowing the range of health risks smoking caused.


“It’s not an accident that the cigarette came out where people can get addicted to nicotine and inhale it in their body,” Bruster said. “They made it that way. Those are choices.”

But Jones Day's José Isasi II, representing Reynolds, countered that cigarettes are inherently dangerous. During Thursday’s closings, Isasi told jurors that the only allegedly defective characteristics in plaintiff’s claim — inhalability and nicotine — were intrinsic elements of all cigarettes. 

“You keep hearing about choices, design choices,” Isasi said. “This isn’t a design choice. This is what cigarettes are.”

Email Arlin Crisco at

Related information

Watch the trial. 

Not a subscriber?

Learn how you can access an unrivaled trial video library.