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Cancer Victim’s Suit Goes to Trial

May 14, 1998

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ According to his co-workers, Roland Maddox laughed at the health risks of cigarettes, called them ``cancer sticks″ and then lit up anyway.

So how can Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. be liable for his death from lung cancer? The question was posed Wednesday by a company lawyer defending a lawsuit filed by Maddox’s family.

``The bottom line is that Mr. Maddox liked to smoke and made a personal choice to smoke and did so, despite the fact that he knew there were health risks,″ lawyer John Nyhan told jurors during opening statements.

Maddox died in May 1997 at age 67. He smoked two packs a day for 48 years. His wife, Margaret Maddox, and daughter, Angela Widdick, are suing Brown & Williamson for negligence, product liability and conspiring with other tobacco companies. Another defendant, Liggett Group Inc., settled Tuesday for an undisclosed sum.

Brown & Williamson should have put warning labels on cigarettes sooner and made a safer, less addictive product, said plaintiffs’ lawyer, Norwood ``Woody″ Wilner.

``He has been killed by the cigarettes he smoked _ Lucky Strike,″ Wilner told jurors. ``Forty to 50 percent of all cigarette users die a premature death. It’s an astonishingly bad deal. It’s a horrible bad deal.″

Maddox’ family said he smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes, which are made by Brown & Williamson, and Chesterfield, made by Liggett.

In depositions, Maddox’s co-workers at a South Florida grocery store said he enjoyed smoking and also called cigarettes ``coffin nails.″

When a co-worker would remind him of the health risks, he ``laughed at them,″ Nyhan said.

``The only two people who said Mr. Maddox was not aware of the risks of smoking are the people who stand to profit from this lawsuit, his wife and daughter,″ Nyhan said.

In 1996, Wilner won a $750,000 judgment against Brown & Williamson on behalf of former smoker Grady Carter. The company has appealed. Wilner has lost two similar lawsuits against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

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