Trial Begins Against RJR & Philip Morris Over MA Smoker's Throat Cancer Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Oct 29, 2021 2:15:15 PM


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Lowell, MA— Attorneys Tuesday debated what role, if any, decades of smoking played in a Massachusetts man’s throat cancer death, as trial opened against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. Babaletos v. R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, 1881CV03523. 

Thomas Babaletos was 59 when he died of laryngeal cancer in 2019, after smoking for more than 40 years. His family contends smoking caused his cancer and that Reynolds and Philip Morris, makers of the cigarettes Babaletos smoked for much of his life, are responsible. 

During Tuesday’s openings the Babaletos family’s attorney, Dolan Dobrinsky & Rosenblum’s Randy Rosenblum, told jurors the companies hid the inherent dangers of their product for years through various marketing initiatives and statements undercutting scientific evidence of smoking’s risks. 

“Mr. Babaletos was the prototypical customer of the cigarette industry. He followed their lead,” Rosenblum said. “He relied on and believed the things that they were saying and unfortunately he developed laryngeal cancer as a result of that.”


However, the defense argues there is nothing to indicate what fueled many of Babaletos’ smoking choices, and they contend smoking did not cause his cancer. 

On Tuesday, Jones Day’s John Walker, representing Reynolds,  told jurors Babaletos never talked to his wife about why he began smoking Reynolds cigarettes, or what influenced his many of his decisions surrounding smoking. “This lawsuit is not the product of a conversation they had where he told her what he was thinking all those years,” Walker said. “They never discussed bringing a lawsuit or any of these allegations that are now being made.”

And Shook Hardy & Bacon’s William Geraghty, representing Philip Morris, told jurors medical evidence would show Babaletos’ cancer was caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, rather than cigarettes. “The pathway by which HPV causes laryngeal cancer is different and distinct [from] the pathway by which laryngeal cancer is caused by, for example, smoking and alcohol,” Geraghty said.  “So if HPV was found in the cancer cells themselves, as it was here… that means smoking did not play a role in causing the cancer.” 

Trial in the case is expected to last through next week. 

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Topics: tobacco, Massachusetts, Babaletos v. Philip Morris, et al.