Judge Declares Mistrial in Lawsuit Against Cigarette Companies
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday after jurors deadlocked in the case of four tobacco companies accused of causing the lung cancer death of a longtime smoker.
Marion County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Johnson declared the mistrial after the six jurors deliberated for 21 hours without reaching a verdict.
Yvonne and Richard Rogers sued four tobacco companies in 1987, claiming they caused his lung cancer. When the Indianapolis attorney died later that year at age 52, his widow amended the lawsuit to include charges of wrongful death.
She accused the companies of liability and negligence and sought compensatory damages of $5 million and unspecified punitive damages.
After the mistrial was declared, Mrs. Rogers and her lawyer, Warren Holland, predicted victory in a second trial.
``We’ll be back,″ she said.
The case was the first to go to trial since last spring’s congressional hearings at which witnesses testified that tobacco company officials knew nicotine was addictive and hid that information from the public.
One tobacco company lawyer said the case proves that the public isn’t ready to find tobacco companies responsible for smoking-related illnesses.
``Even in the court of public opinion created by the Congressional hearings, accusations and innuendo of 1994, the American people as represented by this jury still do not agree with the notion that smokers cannot quit smoking _ and they clearly will not award money damages to smokers,″ said Daniel Donahue, attorney for R.J. Reynolds, a defendant.
Other defendants included Philip Morris Inc., Liggett Group, Inc., and The American Tobacco Co.
Mrs. Rogers’ attorneys argued that despite her husband’s strong-minded nature, he could not overcome an addiction to nicotine he developed from smoking from age five or six until a year before he died.
The lawsuit claimed the companies failed to warn her husband of the addictive and harmful properties in cigarettes, and that they promoted cigarette smoking as safe.
Tobacco company lawyers countered that Rogers should have been able to kick his two- to three-pack a day habit and that he continued to smoke despite knowing the risks.
The only monetary award against a tobacco company in a liability case was won by the family of New Jersey resident Rose Cipollone, tobacco company lawyers said. The $400,000 award was overturned on appeal and the lawsuit was dropped in 1992.