Stuart, FL— A Florida state court jury Thursday cleared R.J. Reynolds of responsibility for a long-time smoker’s cancer death. Delancy v. R.J. Reynolds, 2008-CA-000067.
Jurors in the state’s Nineteenth Circuit, in Martin County, needed only an hour to conclude nicotine addiction did not legally cause lung cancer that Eugene Delancy’s family contend ultimately killed him in 1996.
Delancy, 68, died after smoking for more than four decades. His family contends that years of smoking Camel and Kool brand cigarettes, combined with Reynolds’ participation in a late-20th-century conspiracy to conceal the dangers of smoking, caused Delancy’s cancer.
During Thursday’s closings, the Delancy Family’s attorney, Richard Diaz of The Law Offices of Richard J. Diaz, requested $3 million in compensatory damages, plus a finding that punitives were warranted.
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 illness.
The origin of Delancy’s cancer served as a key point of debate in the trial. On Thursday, Diaz walked jurors through medical records, including diagnosis and billing statements, as well as testimony he says proved Delancy’s cancer began in his lungs before spreading to his brain. “You have 10 doctors in accord, 13 separate entries in medical records against [defense expert, Dr. David Okun’s testimony],” Diaz said.
But the defense argued there was no firm proof Delancy’s cancer began in his lungs. During Thursday’s closing, Jones Day’s Timothy Fiorta highlighted the limited medical records available and noted there was no pathological evidence definitively showing Delancy had lung cancer. Fiorta added Delancy’s cancer did not follow the expected path of a primary lung cancer, caused no symptoms typical of the disease. “We know the doctors [treating Delancy], even at the time didn’t have the full picture,” Fiorta said.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plaintiff is represented by Richard Diaz, of The Law Offices of Richard J. Diaz.
The defense is represented by Jones Day’s John Walker and Timothy Fiorta.
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