Jacksonville, FL— Attorneys Thursday argued over what drove a Florida man to smoke for more than 25 years, as trial began against Philip Morris over the man’s cancer death. Cuddihee v. Philip Morris, 2008CA000398.
Gil Cuddihee started smoking as a teenager and continued to smoke a pack a more a day until his 1994 death from lung cancer, at 41. Cuddihee’s daughter, Sabrina, contends her father’s smoking was fueled by nicotine addiction and Philip Morris’s role in a decades-long conspiracy to hide the dangers of cigarettes.
During Thursday’s openings, Sabrina Cuddihee’s attorney, The Wilner Firm’s Richard Lantinberg, walked jurors through Gil Cuddihee’s smoking history, which he said began with Philip Morris’s Marlboros and included the company’s Merit brand. Lantinberg said Cuddihee became so hooked on cigarettes he was unable to quit despite trying nicotine replacements and even after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Lantinberg told jurors Philip Morris designed their cigarettes to be as addictive as possible, despite knowing the dangers of smoking. “It was done with knowledge, with intent, with a recognition that people were dying, with a recognition that people would get hooked,” he said. “They had scientists, they had marketers, they had psychologists-- they studied everything about their customer and they perfected their product to maximize sales to their customer. “
The lawsuit is among thousands of claims that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action case against the nation’s tobacco companies. The state's supreme court ultimately decertified the class, but ruled that so-called 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 conspired to hide the dangers of smoking. However, in order to be entitled to those findings, plaintiffs must prove the smokers at the heart of their cases suffered from nicotine addiction that caused a smoking-related disease.
Philip Morris argues Cuddihee knew the dangers of smoking but was not truly interested in quitting in time to avoid his cancer. During Thursday’s openings, Arnold & Porter’s Keri Arnold told jurors every pack of cigarettes Cuddihee smoked bore a warning label, and Cuddihee’s family urged him to quit for years because of the health risks.
Yet, Arnold said, Cuddihee never threw out his own cigarettes or made a dedicated effort to quit smoking. “From the time he became a regular smoker up until the day he died, he didn’t give up smoking cigarettes for one single day.” Arnold said. “Why? Because Mr. Cuddihee liked smoking, and that’s what he said.”
Trial in the case is expected to last through next week.
Sabrina Cuddihee is represented by The Wilner Firm’s Richard Lantinberg and Jay Plotkin and Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum’s Randy Rosenblum.
Philip Morris is represented by Arnold and Porter’s Keri Arnold and Shook Hardy's Hassia Diolombi.
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