Trial Opens Against Philip Morris & RJR Over Florida Reverend's Lung Cancer Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Oct 20, 2022 1:13:27 PM


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Quincy, FL— Attorneys Monday debated what drove a Florida reverend to smoke for decades, as trial over his lung cancer death opened against the nation’s two largest tobacco companies. Anderson v. R.J. Reynolds, et al., 2020-CA-000757.

Hosey Anderson, a railroad worker and reverend who spoke in a number of Florida churches,  died from lung cancer in 1994 after decades of smoking. Anderson contends Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, whose Marlboro and Kent cigarette brands Anderson favored, are responsible for his death by hiding the dangers and addictiveness of smoking through much of the 20th century. 

The lawsuit is one of thousands of so-called “Engle-progeny” cases, claims spun from a 1990s class action by Florida smokers against the nation’s tobacco companies. After a trial court verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on defective design, fraud, and conspiracy claims, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class. It ruled individual Engle progeny plaintiffs can recover only if they prove the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that caused a smoking-related illness. Further, to prevail on fraud or conspiracy counts, Engle progeny plaintiffs must prove the smoker's reliance on a fraudulent statement by a specific defendant or a statement made as part of the broader tobacco industry conspiracy. 


On Monday, the Anderson family’s attorney, Richard Diaz, of Richard J. Diaz P.A., highlighted evidence he said showed Anderson was a heavy smoker hooked to cigarettes, and one who believed tobacco industry messaging designed to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking. Diaz also said Anderson, who struggled to quit smoking, switched to “filtered” and “light” brands because he believed false claims concerning their relative safety. 

“[Anderson’s wife] said ‘Listen why don’t you stop smoking?’” Diaz told jurors in recounting an argument between Anderson and his wife over his smoking. “He said “They’re lights. They’re lights. I’m smoking lights. He would point to the pack and say ‘Filter. Filter.’”

But the defense contends Anderson chose to smoke and there was nothing to indicate tobacco messaging drove his smoking decisions. During Monday’s openings Shook Hardy & Bacon’s William Geraghty, representing Philip Morris, told jurors there was no direct evidence linking tobacco messaging with Anderson’s smoking decisions. Geraghty told jurors that, instead, Anderson was a well-informed man who was repeatedly warned of the dangers of smoking. 

“The evidence will show that Mr. Anderson made his own decision to smoke cigarettes knowing that he was taking a serious risk with his health,” Geraghty said. 

Jones Day’s Jack Williams, representing R.J. Reynolds, agreed, adding “Nothing was concealed from Hosey Anderson that Mr. Anderson did not already know.” 

Trial is expected to last into next week.

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Topics: tobacco, Florida, Anderson v. R.J. Reynolds, et al.