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Smoker Claims ‘Cruel, Tragic’ Damage From Asbestos Filters

November 15, 1991

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A stockbroker who claims he developed cancer from asbestos in cigarette filters should be awarded for ″cruel, tragic and immense″ damage caused by the cigarette’s maker, the man’s attorney told a federal court jury today.

Attorneys gave closing arguments today in the lawsuit against Lorillard Inc. by Peter Ierardi, who cited filters in Kent cigarettes he smoked in the 1950s.

The filters contained a form of asbestos that is considered the main cause of mesothelioma, a form of cancer of the lining of the abdomen, chest cavity and covering of the heart and lungs. The disease is always fatal.

Ierardi’s attorney, Thomas Johnson, dismissed claims of the cigarette’s maker, Lorillard Inc., that the level of asbestos in the filter was deemed safe.

″The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says that no safe level can be found for carcinogenic materials,″ Johnson said.

The 50-minute closing argument by Johnson disputed claims by Lorillard that Ierardi may have gotten the asbestos-caused cancer in some other manner.

″Pete Ierardi took the asbestos fibers and sucked them in his mouth,″ Johnson said. ″The simplest explanation is usually the right one.

″The issue whether Pete Ierardi developed mesothelioma from asbestos is just plain medical common sense.″

In their closing arguments, defense attorneys attacked Ierardi’s memory of his smoking history. In his deposition, Ierardi said he smoked Kool filters, then switched to Kent in 1953.

″Kool filters did not exist until 1956,″ said David Hardy, attorney for Lorillard.

Ierardi also had testified some of the Kents he bought were purchased at an Air Force base where he had been stationed in the 1950s. But Andrew McElaney Jr., attorney for Hollingsworth & Vose Co., maker of the filters, said the base’s exchange didn’t carry Kents until 1956, after the filters were removed.

Witnesses for Ierardi testified that in more than 80 percent of mesothelioma cases, the disease is caused by the type of asbestos fiber found in the Kent cigarette filters.

Hardy said that doesn’t prove Ierardi got cancer from the cigarettes.

″The cause is unknown,″ Ierardi said. ″Cause unknown is against human nature. But that’s what we have.″

Ierardi’s suit is one of six filed by attorney Daniel Childs claiming that Lorillard was told by consultants in 1954 that Kent smokers were inhaling asbestos, but took two years to remove the deadly fiber.

The suit is the first of its kind to reach trial, according to Childs.

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