Trial Begins Against Philip Morris Over Florida Marlboro Smoker's Cancer Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 9, 2023 4:00:40 PM


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Tampa, FL— Jurors Wednesday previewed evidence about what drove a Florida woman to smoke for most of her life, as trial opened against Philip Morris over her lung cancer death. Martin v. Philip Morris, 2008-CA-018094. 

Born in 1948, Diane Nelson was a smoker by the time she was 14 and continued to smoke for more than three decades, favoring Philip Morris’ Marlboro-brand cigarettes throughout much of that time. However, Nelson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992 and ultimately died from the disease in 1995, just short of her 47th birthday. 

Nelson’s family claims Philip Morris is responsible for her death by hooking her to cigarettes the company knew were addictive and dangerous. The case is one of thousands of so-called ‘Engle Progeny” lawsuits, cases spun from an ultimately decertified 1990s class action by Florida smokers against the nation’s tobacco companies. In decertifying the class following a trial court verdict against the companies, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that individual Engle progeny plaintiffs can recover only if they prove the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that legally caused a smoking-related illness.

During Wednesday’s openings, Searcy Denney’s Hardee Bass, representing Nelson’s family, walked jurors through documents he said showed Philip Morris worked with other tobacco companies to undercut messaging about the dangers of cigarettes throughout much of Nelson’s life. Bass told jurors Nelson had her first cigarette in a society when smoking was normal, and she became powerfully addicted to nicotine.

“Sadly for her, [she] couldn’t even fully give up or stop smoking even after being diagnosed with lung cancer,” Bass said. 

But Philip Morris argues Nelson enjoyed smoking and was not truly interested in quitting in time to avoid her cancer. During Wednesday’s openings, Rodman & Rodman’s Kat Gallagher told jurors there would be nothing to show that Nelson relied on statements made by Philip Morris or other tobacco companies. And she said evidence would show Nelson ignored warnings about smoking from family, media, and others.

“This is a case about her smoking and her decisions about her smoking, including the decision to smoke for 30 years and never even try to quit, even though she knew the dangers of smoking,” Gallagher said. 

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Topics: tobacco, Engle Progeny, Florida, Martin v. Philip Morris, et al.