Man Uses ‘Pioneering Approach’ To Win $2 Million Verdict
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Using an approach that could open a new line of attack against cigarette makers, a man has won a $2 million verdict by blaming asbestos-laced filters _ not tobacco _ for his cancer.
California law protects manufacturers against lawsuits for tobacco-related illnesses, but lawyers for 70-year-old Milton Horowitz focused instead on filters in the Kent cigarettes he smoked in the 1950s.
``If this one holds up, this is really a pioneering approach,″ said Helen Jones, spokeswoman for The American Cancer Society’s San Francisco office. ``It’s very encouraging.″
The jury Thursday awarded the Los Angeles psychologist $1.3 million in compensatory damages, which cover financial losses, pain and suffering. On Friday, the jury awarded him $700,000 in punitive damages, which are meant to punish misconduct and deter wrongdoing by others.
Lorillard Tobacco Co. will appeal, said company lawyer William Ohlemeyer. Lorillard defeated four previous lawsuits about the filters, he said.
``It is important to note that this is not a smoking and health case, nor one which will have any impact on the defense of smoking and health cases,″ the company said in a statement.
The cancer society said it was only the second time a tobacco company lost a lawsuit over use of its products. A federal judge threw out the verdict in the first case, filed in 1983 in New Jersey.
Horowitz alleged that Lorillard and Hollingsworth & Vose, a filter maker, exposed him to asbestos in the filters of Kent cigarettes, which he said he smoked from 1952 to 1963.
Last year, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer with a long latency period that is frequently caused by asbestos. He is weak and tired, but not bedridden.
Lorillard said it removed asbestos from its filters in 1956, but Jones said, ``It’s hard to be sure about that. The tobacco industry never tells you about the additives.″
A spokesman for Hollingsworth did not immediately return a call.
Jurors thought the companies should have done more to test the safety of the filters, foreman Pete Villani said. ``We were trying to get the message out that what happened was wrong,″ Villani said.
The jury reduced the punitive damages from the $5 million that Horowitz’s lawyers requested to $700,000 because the wrongdoing happened so long ago, he said.