Smokers' Lawyer Attacks Industry
Mar. 29, 2000
MIAMI (AP) _ The tobacco industry can always find a witness to get cigarettes off the hook as the cause of disease in smokers' lawsuits, an attorney for sick smokers told jurors preparing to consider damages in a closely watched case.
Reviewing the testimony of doctors called in the industry's defense, attorney Stanley Rosenblatt focused on payments reaching $140,000 and lack of experience or research on smoking-related illnesses.
``They'll blame it on anything other than cigarettes,'' he said Tuesday during closing arguments. ``They can always find a witness to do that.''
Smoking industry lawyers were expected to present closing arguments today.
The six-member jury is being asked to order compensatory damages for three smokers represent an estimated 500,000 other Florida smokers in the first class-action case against the tobacco industry to go to trial.
If jurors award compensatory damages, they then will be asked to set a dollar figure to punish the industry. Company officials fear a potentially ruinous $300 billion punitive damage verdict.
The six-member jury decided last July that the industry fraudulently conspired to make a defective product.
Doctors have testified that the three smokers' cancers were caused by smoking.
The industry has offered evidence that bronchioalveolar cancer _ a form of lung cancer that the jury decided is not linked to smoking _ caused the cancers in two of the smokers. It blamed industrial wood dust as a possible cause of the throat cancer in the third.
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.