Woburn, MA— R.J. Reynolds and a grocery chain prevailed last week at trial over the bladder cancer a Massachusetts man claims was caused by decades of smoking. Gallagher v. R.J. Reynolds, et al., 2281CV03347.
A Middlesex County (Massachusetts) Superior Court jury capped a 12-day trial by finding that, although Joseph Gallagher’s bladder cancer was caused by smoking, neither Reynolds nor Stop & Shop Supermarket were liable on claims that the cigarettes were defectively designed. Jurors also cleared Reynolds on fraud and conspiracy claims.
Gallagher began smoking as a college student in 1963 and continued for decades before quitting in roughly 1992. He contends that the bladder cancer he developed in 2020 was caused by his smoking and Reynolds’ production of cigarettes it knew were addictive and dangerous.
Reynolds counters that radiation treatment for a 2005 bout of prostate cancer unrelated to Gallagher’s smoking caused his bladder cancer, that its cigarettes were not defectively designed, and that Gallagher knew the dangers of smoking.
The 11-day trial turned largely on Reynolds’ decisions surrounding the design and marketing of cigarettes compared with Gallagher’s own decisions concerning smoking.
During closings last Wednesday, Gallagher’s attorney, Tein | Malone’s Allan Kaiser, reviewed evidence he said showed that Reynolds and companies across the tobacco industry engineered cigarettes to be as addictive as possible, all with an eye toward hooking consumers to a product Reynolds and cigarette makers knew caused cancer.
“Every single cigarette that Mr. Gallagher smoked had an amount of nicotine that was addictive. And that was done on purpose, not by nature,” Kaiser said. “They had a sweet spot and they never went below that sweet spot. It was always to create and sustain addiction.”
But Reynolds contends that nicotine and other elements Gallagher’s attorneys complained of were part of what constituted a cigarette, which was an inherently dangerous product. And during Wednesday’s closings, Jones Day’s Jason Keehfus reminded jurors of evidence he said showed that Gallagher smoked for decades out of enjoyment and to relieve stress, and despite knowing the risks involved.
“He was going to continue smoking, despite what anyone said, despite what a warning label said, despite the knowledge that he had, because that’s how he wanted to manage the stress in his life,” Keehfus said. “But along with the right to make that decision comes the personal responsibility for that decision.”
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
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