British smoker to sue Philip Morris for £1m

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The Independent Online

A British smoker is to sue the makers of Marlboro cigarettes for an estimated £1m in the first UK action against the American tobacco industry.

A British smoker is to sue the makers of Marlboro cigarettes for an estimated £1m in the first UK action against the American tobacco industry.

If successful, the case could lead to thousands of other compensation claims brought by UK smokers in the US courts.

British lawyers acting for the unnamed father-of-two from London, who has been given less than 18 months to live, are working with New York attorneys to prepare a case to go before a US court.

In March, a court in Florida awarded a record $97bn in damages against the US tobacco industry.

But last year, litigation against the British tobacco industry was halted when 47 cancer sufferers abandoned a multi-million-pound lawsuit.

The claimants' decision to withdraw followed a hearing in the High Court when Mr Justice Wright indicated the cases were time-barred.

The tobacco companies Gallaher, makers of Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges cigarettes, and Imperial promised not to pursue the failed litigants for their costs, which totalled £7m. In return, the solicitors agreed not to take action against any tobacco firm for five years, and not to take any action against Gallaher and Imperial for 10 years.

But now the British law firm Russell Jones & Walker believes it can succeed in the US against Philip Morris, makers of Marlboro, where others have failed in the UK.

They will be relying on public admissions made by Philip Morris and other representatives of the tobacco industry about the addictive quality of nicotine and the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Lawyers for the 46-year-old British claimant will argue that when health warnings appeared in 1971 he was reassured by the industry about the health implications of smoking and put such concerns to the back of his mind.