A 92-year-old man went up against Big Tobacco and he won.
Last Thursday, a Broward County, Florida jury decided to award him more than $5.3 million at the conclusion of a Florida tobacco lawsuit trial in which he claimed cigarettes caused his wife’s death in 1996. The man sued Philip Morris for causing his wife’s lung cancer. His wife was 73 when she died. In an earlier phase of the trial, the jury agreed that cigarettes killed her.
Many people fail to understand the attitude toward cigarettes when the deceased woman started smoking at the age of 16 in 1923. Doctors advised people to smoke to calm their nerves. The government gave cigarettes out to soldiers. Television commercials promoted cigarette smoking as cool and sophisticated. Howard Engle, a Miami Beach pediatrician, who led the class action lawsuit representing some 700,000 smokers, had been a tobacco-addict since the 1940s when cigarette companies gave medical students at the University of Wisconsin free cigarettes. He hated Big Tobacco and its strategies used to create lifetime users by creating addicts.
Howard Engle died this past July at the age of 89. He had suffered from smoking–related respiratory disease and lymphoma. His lawsuit yielded him a little over $13,000, but he was excited to eventually see 42,558 Floridians split $575 million that was distributed to those in the class.
The Engle lawsuit established for the first time that the industry lied and deceived the public about the dangers of cigarettes. So while people today are fully informed before they begin smoking, years ago people were coaxed into an addiction, which takes more than will-power to quit.
The woman in the above story smoked two packs of cigarettes a day before she died and she couldn’t quit. One night when watching the ‘Seven Dwarfs,” the seven tobacco executives, swear to Congress in 1994 that cigarettes were not linked to cancer, she told her husband, “If anything happens to me, sue them.” It was tough to believe back then that professional executives would lie to the public. But it was true. By that time, the industry knew cigarettes caused lung cancer.
The man told the jury at trial on his 92nd birthday that he was devastated by his wife’s death and didn’t leave home for three years. And he says that he still speaks to her every night.
No one should be surprised by the statement issued by Philip Morris after the verdict. Instead of righting a wrong, Philip Morris says it plans to appeal and stretch out that process. The deceased woman’s husband is 92-years-old and an appeal could easily take several more years if the defendants have their way.
Philip Morris believes the verdict was the result of a “severely prejudicial trial plan.”
Or maybe, the public is tired of being lied to.
For more information on how tobacco companies can be held accountable for their negligent and unreasonable actions that led to the death of a loved one, contact the skilled Jacksonville tobacco lawyers at Farah and Farah.