West Palm Beach, FL—R.J. Reynolds prevailed Wednesday at trial over claims it was responsible for a Florida man’s lung cancer. Ridley v. R.J. Reynolds, 2011CA005250.
Jurors in Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit, in Palm Beach County, needed about 90 minutes to conclude nicotine addiction did not cause Norbert McFall’s lung cancer.
The determination excluded McFall and his family from Engle class membership, a class of thousands of Florida smokers who must link nicotine addiction to a specific smoking-related disease in order to recover damages against the nation’s tobacco companies.
McFall, 81, died in 1996, two years after doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer, and after he had been smoking R.J. Reynolds’ Camel cigarettes for more than 25 years. McFall’s family claims that Reynolds’ involvement in a scheme to hide the dangers of smoking hooked him to the cigarettes and led to his cancer-related death.
During Wednesday’s closing arguments, The Ferraro Law Firm’s Alan Kaiser, representing McFall’s family, sought a finding that punitive damages were warranted in the case and suggested a range of compensatory damages, from $1.68 million to more than $11 million, under alternative wrongful death and survivorship claims.
The week-long trial turned on whether a link existed between nicotine addiction and McFall’s cancer. During Wednesday’s closing arguments, Kaiser reminded jurors of expert testimony concluding McFall was hooked on nicotine based on his smoking behavior over the course of decades. “What you have here is uncontroverted evidence that Mr. McFall was addicted to the nicotine that he smoked in cigarettes," Kaiser said.
But King & Spalding’s Jeffrey Furr, reminded jurors that no treating physician had diagnosed McFall as addicted to nicotine while he was alive. And Furr argued that even if McFall was addicted, that addiction did not legally cause his lung cancer because he never made a concerted attempt to quit cigarettes. “Was Mr. McFall’s lung cancer caused by his choice to smoke, because he never wanted to stop smoking?” Furr asked. “[T]hat is what caused Mr. McFall’s lung cancer. That it is the only real cause of Mr. McFall’s lung cancer.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plaintiff is represented by The Ferraro Law Firm’s Alan Kaiser.
The defense is represented by King & Spalding’s Jeffrey Furr and Philip Green.
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