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Tobacco Trial Moves to Second Phase

July 12, 1999

MIAMI (AP) _ Mary Farnan began smoking at age 11.

Diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, the 43-year-old registered nurse still could not break the habit.

She tried to quit using hypnosis, nicotine gum, and patches but smoked through her first course of radiation and chemotherapy.

And the cancer spread.

Now Farnan’s story is at the center of a legal battle to force cigarette companies to pay potentially billions of dollars in damages to an estimated 500,000 sick Florida smokers and their heirs.

Lawyers who won a landmark liability decision against the tobacco industry last week plan to use Farnan’s story to show tobacco’s human toll to the Florida jury hearing the case as the trial enters its second stage _ the award of damages.

The first phase of the Florida smokers’ class-action lawsuit dealt primarily with the deeds of faceless corporations. The second phase will be much more human, dealing with the lives of the Farnan and eight other sick smokers who represent the class of half a million.

Circuit Judge Robert Kaye may set the start date for the second phase this afternoon. The judge has issued a gag order preventing parties to the case from discussing it with reporters.

Plaintiffs attorneys Susan and Stanley Rosenblatt have said they plan to open with Farnan’s story.

``Mary Farnan has lung cancer, her lung cancer has metastasized to her brain,″ Susan Rosenblatt said in court last week. ``She’s had brain surgery. She unfortunately has a limited life expectancy.″

Jurors will also hear about Frank Amodeo. The 60-year-old Orlando man hasn’t eaten since the 1980s. Throat cancer robbed him of the ability to swallow; he now takes nourishment directly into his stomach.

Howard Engle, the Miami Beach pediatrician for whom the case is named, suffers from emphysema and has trouble breathing. The lawsuit says he started smoking while in medical school to mask the smell of cadavers.

Raymond Lacey has Buerger’s disease, a circulatory disorder which almost exclusively strikes young men who smoke.

``Mr. Lacey’s addiction to nicotine resulted in the loss of part of one leg; he was told to stop smoking or he could lose the entire leg. Mr. Lacey devoutly wished to end the addiction which was causing the loss of his limb but he was unable to do so,″ the lawsuit states.

Lacey came to court in a wheelchair; both of his legs have been amputated.

Despite repeated attempts, Robert Angell of Miami-Dade County couldn’t stop smoking even after being diagnosed with throat cancer.

``Due to his addiction, Mr. Angell had a cigarette on the way to the operating room,″ the lawsuit says.

His was one of the electronic voice boxes jurors heard in the courtroom.

Loren Lowery of Hillsborough County, who started smoking at 15, lost most of his lower jaw and part of his tongue to cancer. Michael Matyi of Pinellas County began smoking at age 11, developed a tumor and had a vocal cord removed.

And Frosene Steevens of Miami-Dade County developed congestive heart failure, resulting in a quadruple bypass 10 years ago. Afterward she still couldn’t stop smoking, according to the lawsuit.

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