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Smokers’ Lawyer Attacks Industry

March 28, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ Nearly all lung and throat cancer cases among smokers are caused by cigarettes, a smokers’ attorney argued Tuesday in the final stages of a landmark case that Big Tobacco fears could ruin the industry.

``Ninety-nine percent plus of the people who get these terrible diseases are smokers,″ attorney Stanley Rosenblatt told jurors who later this week are expected to consider compensatory damages in the class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of roughly 500,000 sick Florida smokers.

``Occasionally, rarely, someone gets lung cancer or throat cancer who is not a smoker.″

The tobacco industry wants to ``blame it on anything other than their wonderful product,″ Rosenblatt said. ``They came up with something like they always come up with something so they can get cigarettes off the hook.″

On Wednesday, Rosenblatt is expected to ask for a specific dollar amount to cover medical bills as well as pain and suffering.

Following that, the nation’s five biggest cigarette makers will get their chance to convince the six-member panel that they should not be required to pay anything.

If the jury awards compensatory damages, the panel will hear more testimony and be asked to set a dollar figure to punish the industry. Company officials fear a ruinous $300 billion punitive damage verdict.

The jury last summer found the companies fraudulently conspired to make a deadly product that causes cancer, emphysema other illnesses.

The defendants are Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc. and the industry’s Council for Tobacco Research and Tobacco Institute.

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