Judge Rejects Ex-Smoker's Bid to Have Philip Morris Pay his Doctor Bills With PM-Secondhand Smoke-Lawsuit

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. (AP) _ A small claims court judge today rejected a man's bid to have tobacco giant Philip Morris Cos. pay for his stop-smoking treatments, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

Al Deskiewicz, 51, sought to have Philip Morris pay the $1,154.53 he said it cost him to quit smoking after 34 years. He said he was lured into the habit in the late 1950s by the Marlboro man image promoted by the cigarette company.

But Bellevue District Court Judge Linda Jacke said that under state law, a claim for damages should have been filed within three years from the date Deskiewicz knew or should have known of his injury.

She ruled that Deskiewicz should have known he was harmed in 1971 when he tried to quit smoking and failed. She also noted Deskiewicz made another unsuccessful attempt to quit smoking in 1978.

Deskiewicz argued in his small claims case heard two weeks ago that he was powerless over cigarettes until he recognized in 1989 that he was an addict.

He also maintained that because the tobacco companies knew their product was addictive but failed to warn the public, they violated state product liability laws.

But Jacke said in her written ruling that the term ''addiction'' is impossible to define in a legal sense and that simply learning that the term might apply to smoking was not an issue.

''We're pleased,'' said Charles Wall, associate general counsel to Philip Morris. ''We thought that this should be the outcome.''

Deskiewicz said he was disappointed by the ruling and would talk to his attorney about whether to appeal the case to King County Superior Court.

If he does, Jacke said, an entirely new trial would be held in Superior Court, with a decision based on evidence presented there.