A jury in Florida hit Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds Tobacco with punitive damages that increased the total verdict for the tobacco and lung cancer lawsuit to $6 million for the plaintiff’s wife, who died of lung cancer in 2004.
Punitive damages were assessed at $450,000 for Philip Morris and $200,000 for RJ Reynolds. They were not nearly as high as the plaintiff Stanley Martin was asking for – $12.5 million.
The verdict for the punitive damages came after Martin won $5.4 million during the compensatory damages part of the trial. That financial award included $110,000 for medical expenses that the deceased incurred for her lung cancer. Also, he was awarded $5.3 million for the suffering he endured as she died.
During the lung cancer trial, Stanley Martin stated that his wife smoked two packs of cigarettes each day, even though she wanted to stop.
Testimony that was given in November from a clinical psychologist named Benjamin Toll stated that he reviewed the deceased woman’s medical records and found that she was addicted to nicotine and tobacco.
The Difference Between Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is caused only by exposure to asbestos, and lung cancer can have many causes, with the most common being smoking cigarettes. But what are the differences in how these two diseases progress?
Mesothelioma occurs when several tumors due to asbestos exposure are found in a large area of tissue but they are all related. In an advanced mesothelioma case, one cannot really tell the difference between healthy and cancerous tissues. This is why there are very few effective treatments for mesothelioma once it is more advanced. It is often not possible to remove the cancerous tissue because it affects a large area of the body. Radiation therapy is most effective for small tumors, and chemotherapy can work but by itself, it usually is not strong enough.
Over time, the mesothelioma tumors take over healthy tissue and the patient usually dies within a year of diagnosis.
On the other hand, lung cancer usually features individual tumors with clear boundaries. Some people with lung cancer may have several tumors, but they are usually very distinguished from each other and can be seen as separate from healthy tissue. Lung cancer is also very dangerous, but there are more treatment options because the tumors are distinct and separate. More about Mesothelioma cancer lawsuits can be found here.
Toll stated that it was very clear from her medical records and from the trial testimony that Mrs. Martin tried to reduce her smoking but could not do it. She continued to smoke even though she was getting worse and worse health problems. She had major heart problems that included a heart attack and heart bypass surgery that were largely due to smoking, and yet she could not quit.
The expert for the plaintiff testified in November, and at that trial, the attorneys for Martin and the tobacco companies each offered very different portraits of the deceased and her relationship with smoking.
Rosen noted during the trial that his wife tried to quit many times but she just could not do it due to her nicotine addiction. However, the Philip Morris attorney William Geraghty noted that the woman was educated and she knew since 1964 that smoking was dangerous, and she did not quit, even though her husband did.
Geraghty stated that she knew for decades that smoking was bad for her, and made no real effort to quit. The woman died from lung cancer in 2004.
This lung cancer case is one of thousands that have come from the landmark Engle class action lawsuit against tobacco companies. The supreme court in Florida did decertify the class action suit in 2006, which had a $145 billion verdict. But it did allow 700,000 people who could have gotten a judgement to rely on the findings of the jury to file their own lawsuits.
Those findings included a conclusion that smoking causes many deadly diseases and that tobacco companies often hid the dangers of smoking for decades.
In the Martin case above, the woman’s state of residency was an issue. She lived much of her life in NY but she lived in Florida for half of the year after her husband stopped working. He noted that she preferred to live in NY and did not want to make FL her main place of residence. She was registered to vote in FL before the cut off date for the Engle class action of Nov. 21, 1996.
The jurors did end up agreeing with Rosen and found that Martin did live in FL in the time in question.
However, the tobacco companies argued that any wrongdoing happened many decades ago and that the people who worked there had left years ago. Also, regulatory circumstances were no longer the same, and the lawyers stated that there was not any risk of companies repeating the same history.
Geraghty stated that if the conduct that led to harm for Martin was already corrected and was not able to be repeated, there was not a need for punitive damages, but the jury did end up awarding some punitive damages in this lung cancer case.