Trial in Hawaii Opens Against Philip Morris Over Ex-Smoker's Lung Cancer

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jul 21, 2023 1:17:56 PM


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Honolulu, Hawaii— Attorneys Wednesday debated who bore responsibility for the lung cancer of a woman who smoked for more than 60 years, as a Hawaii state court trial opened against Philip Morris. Ricapor-Hall v. Philip Morris, 1CCV-21-0000334.

Ramona Ricapor-Hall started smoking in 1953 as a 12-year old, and continued for roughly 66 years, averaging a pack-and-a-half to two packs of cigarettes a day during much of that time. She quit smoking in 2019 after doctors diagnosed her with lung cancer. Now 82, Ricapor-Hall claims Philip Morris, maker of the Virginia Slims and Benson and Hedges brands she smoked for decades, is responsible for the disease by placing a dangerous, addictive product on the market. 

During Wednesday’s openings, Ricapor-Hall’s attorney, The Alvarez Law Firm’s Alex Alvarez, walked jurors through evidence he said showed Philip Morris engineered its cigarettes to be as addictive as possible, knowing the dangers of smoking, while simultaneously working to conceal and undercut information surrounding those dangers. 

Alvarez said Philip Morris and could have made safer alternatives to cigarettes, including ultra-low nicotine and heat-not-burn variants, but rejected these designs.

“They know that they could reduce (nicotine), but if they reduce it they internally recognize that people are going to start quitting and they’re going to lose profits,” Alvarez said. 

But the defense argues cigarettes are inherently products that contain nicotine and are consumed by burning, and that Ricapor-Hall bore responsibility for her own smoking decisions. During Wednesday’s openings, Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Kenneth Reilly told jurors Ricapor-Hall smoked for more than 15 years before beginning to smoke Philip Morris brands, and that she knew the dangers of smoking for decades but was never sufficiently motivated to quit for good until after her cancer diagnosis. 

“That’s Philip Morris’ fault?” Reilly asked, before telling jurors Ricapor-Hall acknowledged she could have quit earlier if she had “summoned the willpower” to do so. “That’s your personal choice, right?”

This is the first proceeding CVN has covered in a Hawaii state court. Trial is expected to run 3-4 weeks. 

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Topics: Products Liability, tobacco, Ricapor-Hall v. Philip Morris