Viera, FL— Jurors heard opposing claims of what drove a Florida man to smoke for more than 40 years before his lung cancer death, as trial opened across Friday and Monday against R.J. Reynolds. Morse v. R.J. Reynolds, 2008-CA-006848.
Jay Morse was 69 when he died of lung cancer in 1995 after decades of smoking Reynolds’ Camel cigarettes. His family contends Reynolds is responsible, arguing the company conspired with other tobacco companies to hide the dangers and addictiveness of smoking, duping Morse and ultimately hooking him to nicotine.
During Friday’s openings, Freidin Brown’s Philip Freidin, representing Morse’s family, highlighted tobacco industry marketing initiatives he said were designed to undercut the medical evidence of smoking’s risks, and which he said helped fuel Morse's smoking and lead to his lung cancer.
“Every time something came up [about smoking’s health risks], they slammed it down and said it’s not true,” Freidin said of tobacco industry messaging. “They met fire with water. They threw water on the fire and doused the flames, every time.”
The case is among thousands of Florida’s Engle-progeny lawsuits against the nation’s tobacco companies. Those cases stem from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision decertifying Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a class action tobacco suit originally filed in 1994. The supreme court ruled that Engle-progeny cases must be tried individually on specific elements, including addiction and causation. However, it found plaintiffs who proved those elements could rely on certain jury findings in the original case, including the determination that tobacco companies had placed a dangerous, addictive product on the market and had conspired to hide the dangers of smoking through much of the 20th century.
However, Reynolds contends Morse chose to smoke despite knowing the dangers of cigarettes. During openings Monday, King & Spalding’s Jason Keehfus, representing Reynolds, highlighted evidence he said showed Morse disregarded repeated warnings that continuing to smoke could kill him.
“Mr. Morse fully understood, and didn’t need any additional information on the dangers of smoking,” Keehfus said. “It may not have been the decision his family wanted him to make, but it was the decision he made.”
This is the fourth time the Morse case has been in front of CVN cameras, with three previous mistrials cutting the case short of a verdict. Jurors deadlocked in the case’s last trial, in 2018.
Proceedings are expected to continue through next week.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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