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Trial Opens Against Philip Morris Over Cancer That Took Florida Smoker's Larynx

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Sep 19, 2019, 5:00:22 PM

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Miami, FL— Attorneys argued Tuesday over who bore responsibility for the laryngeal cancer that cost a Florida smoker his voice box, as trial opened against Philip Morris. Alvarez Del Real v. Philip Morris, 2007-CA-032909.

Jorge Alvarez Del Real immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1980 and claims he began smoking sometime afterward, favoring Philip Morris’ Marlboros, until doctors diagnosed him with laryngeal cancer in 1996. 

Alvarez Del Real contends cigarettes, and the tobacco company’s role in a long-standing scheme to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking, led to his cancer. On Tuesday, Alvarez Del Real’s attorney, The Menendez Law Firm’s Jose Menendez, walked jurors through documents he said showed Philip Morris knew smoking could cause cancer; yet, the company helped fund studies and marketing initiatives designed to undercut evidence of smoking’s risks. 

“It [became] one of the most successful spin machines in America history,” Menendez said. “Every time the Surgeon General comes out with something… they [would] spin.”

The case is among thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against Reynolds and other tobacco companies. The state's supreme court ultimately decertified the class, but ruled 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.

The defense argues Alvarez Del Real knew smoking was dangerous when he picked up his first Marlboro, but continued to smoke because he enjoyed it. On Tuesday, Venable’s Jessica Grant told jurors warnings about smoking’s health effects appeared on cigarette packs and in publications long before Alvarez Del Real came to the U.S. “He knew smoking was dangerous for his health. He saw the warnings on the packs of cigarettes,” Grant said. “But he just didn’t think anything could happen to him, so he kept smoking because he liked the taste, he enjoyed it, and it relieved his stress.”

The case is expected to go to the jury by the end of the week. 

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com.

Related Information

Jorge Alvarez Del Real is represented by The Menendez Law Firm’s Jose Menendez and Parafinczuk Wolf Susen’s Austin Carr. 

Philip Morris is represented by Venable’s Jessica Grant and Shook Hardy’s Terry Sexton. 

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Topics: Products Liability, tobacco, Engle Progeny, Florida, Alvarez Del Real v. Philip Morris