Boston, MA— Attorneys Monday debated who bore responsibility for the lung cancer death of a Massachusetts woman who smoked for more than half a century, as trial opened against the nation’s two largest tobacco companies. Kinnally v. R.J. Reynolds, et al., 1684CV03937.
Joanne Kinnally, 71, died from lung cancer in 2014, about a year after being diagnosed with the disease. Kinnally’s husband, James Kinnally, claims that R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, owners of the Kent and Marlboro Light brands that Kinnally favored across roughly 55 years of smoking, are responsible for her death.
DeMoulas Super Markets, Inc., is also a defendant in the case, under a claim the grocery chain sold dangerous cigarettes to Kinnally. However, the thrust of the case, as shown in Monday's openings, centers on the cigarettes themselves and the tobacco companies' conduct.
During Monday’s openings, the Kinnally family’s attorney, Andrew Rainer, of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, said evidence would show the tobacco companies knowingly produced dangerous, addictive cigarettes while working together for much of the latter half of the 20th century to conceal those dangers from the public.
And he added that the companies continued to manufacture cigarettes that were unreasonably dangerous, despite long having the ability to make safer, less addictive alternatives.
“We are going to present evidence to you that, today in 2023, R.J. Reynolds is making the same defective, unreasonably dangerous, addictive Kent cigarettes that it sold to Joanne Kinnally for decades,” he said. “Today Philip Morris is selling the same unreasonably dangerous, defective, Marlboro Lights, they call them Marlboro Golds, that they sold to Joanne Kinnally for decades.”
But the defense contends that Kinnally chose to smoke, despite knowing the dangers of cigarettes. During Monday’s openings, Philip Morris’ attorney, William Geraghty of Shook Hardy & Bacon, told jurors evidence would show Kinnally was warned about smoking throughout her life, but had no real interest in quitting until her cancer diagnosis.
“So in one sense, this case presents a simple question: should [the defendants] be held legally responsible and be required to pay money damages to Mr. Kinnally when the evidence will show that Joanne Kinnally chose to continue smoking cigarettes for decades, knowing that she was taking a serious risk with her health.”
R.J. Reynolds’ attorney, Jones Day's Jason Keehfus, agreed, adding evidence would show that Kinnally was never interested in quitting cigarettes in time to avoid her cancer.
"She made her own decisions, no one is critical of that. She’s entitled to make her own decisions,” Keehfus said. “But with that comes the personal responsibility for those decisions.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misidentified Jason Keehfus' law firm. That has been corrected.
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