Tobacco firms suffer worst legal defeat hid dangers of smoking truth

TOBACCO COMPANIES suffered their worst ever legal defeat yesterday when jurors in Florida ruled that they had conspired to conceal the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

In the first class-action smokers' lawsuit to get to trial and end in a verdict, an estimated 500,000 Floridians and their families sought at least $200bn from tobacco companies. No damages were specified by the jury yesterday, but aside from the financial cost the case could open the floodgates for many more such cases. Damages will be decided later.

The jury decided that cigarette smoking is addictive, that the industry conspired to hide the dangers of smoking, that it sold defective products, was negligent and should be held liable for punitive damages.

The companies concerned were RJ Reynolds, Philip Morris, Lorillard, British American Tobacco's Brown and Williamson and two industry groups. They argued that everybody knew the health risks of smoking. The trial involved eight months of testimony, and it took the jury seven days to reach a verdict

The lawyers for the smokers were husband-and-wife team Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, who fought and won a settlement for flight attendants exposed to second-hand smoke in 1997. Mr Rosenblatt, a hero of the anti-tobacco movement, said that the tobacco companies had perpetrated "one of the great cons of the 20th century" on unsuspecting smokers. There was a "rampant and cynical long-standing pattern of fraud," he said.

"Nobody forced smokers to smoke," said Robert Heim, an attorney for Philip Morris. "There's overwhelming evidence... that smokers have been aware of the serious health risks of smoking for much, much longer than any of us in this courtroom have been alive."

The Engle case, with nine plaintiffs, was named after a doctor who contracted lung disease. Once damages are decided, then the remaining smokers and their families will be free to file similar suits.

US juries have awarded damages in smoking liability cases only five times - twice in Florida and once in New Jersey, Oregon and California and the Florida and New Jersey verdicts were overturned on appeal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee