Miami— Attorneys last week debated what drove a Florida woman’s smoking decisions across more than four decades, as trial opened against R.J. Reynolds over the throat cancer that took her voice box. Moore v. R.J. Reynolds, 2008-CA-000858.
Joan Moore smoked 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day for 40-plus years, favoring Kent cigarettes, a brand now owned by Reynolds. She was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 1993, which forced the removal of her larynx. She died 10 years later for reasons unrelated to smoking. Her son, Robert, claims Reynolds’ role in a conspiracy to hide the dangers of smoking led to his mother’s throat cancer.
During openings last Friday, Moore’s attorney, Friedin Brown’s Philip Friedin, told jurors Moore started smoking because of tobacco marketing that glamourized cigarettes. He added that Moore soon became hooked on nicotine — unable to sleep through the night without getting up for a cigarette.
Friedin told jurors Moore’s smoking continued because of a tobacco industry campaign designed to undercut mounting evidence of smoking’s risks. And he said she believed false claims that filtered cigarettes like Kent, were not as dangerous as their traditional counterparts. “This was marketed massively,” Friedin said, showing a Kent advertisement touting better health protection the brand’s filter offered. But, he said, “Filters do not make cigarettes safer. In fact, [it’s] the opposite.”
The case is among thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against the nation’s tobacco companies. The state's supreme court later decertified the class, but ruled Engle progeny cases may be tried individually. Plaintiffs 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 hid the dangers of smoking.
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Reynolds contends Moore smoked by choice, despite knowing the dangers of cigarettes. And the company’s attorneys claim Moore was uninterested in quitting in time to avoid her throat cancer.
During last Friday’s openings, King & Spalding’s Randall Bassett told jurors Moore rejected pleas from her family to quit smoking. And he said she quit smoking for good, around the time of her throat cancer diagnosis, the first time she went without a cigarette at least 24 hours. “She did not have an interest in quitting [earlier],” Bassett told jurors. “She was not ready to put in the type of motivation and persistence that was required if you want to quit smoking.”
Trial in the case is expected to last into next week.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Moore is represented by Friedin Brown’s Philip Friedin.
R.J. Reynolds is represented by Randall Bassett and Kathryn Lehman.
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