$5 Million Verdict against Philip Morris Upheld for Lifelong Smoker

In July 2014, a Florida jury awarded the widow of a lifelong smoker $5.5 million for his smoking-related illness. The defendant in this case, Philip Morris USA, attempted to appeal the verdict, though the Florida appeals court upheld the July opinion. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail this case, and how other former smokers or their families could file similar lawsuits.

The lawsuit was filed by Florence Mulholland on behalf of her deceased husband, who passed way from lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. In her case, Mulholland had to prove that her husband suffered from a smoking-related illness, that he was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, and that his addiction led to the stated illness.

This is widely considered a landmark case, as it is the first federal tobacco verdict that has been upheld on appeal in the state of New York. The appeals court also rejected Philip Morris’ argument that David Mulholland’s testimony should not have been allowed in court. In his testimony, David stated that he would not have started smoking cigarettes as a teen in the 1960s if he had known smoking causes cancer.

Mulholland’s case was filed in 2005 and went to trial in 2013. Ultimately, the jury awarded Florence Mulholland and her daughter $5.5 million for their immense loss. About a million of that award was paid by a second defendant, an auto repair shop where David worked. Auto repair shop employees are exposed to a certain toxic substance, asbestos, that can cause or contribute to lung cancer development.

Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer

Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral that was used widely throughout the 20th century in building materials, auto parts, and in shipyards among many, many other industries. Nearly everyone has been exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives, though more often than not the exposure occurs without notice. When asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs – most often through occupational exposure -the fibers become lodged in the lung tissue. Over a long time, usually between 20 and 50 years, the fibers affect the surrounding tissue and cause cellular changes that lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Exposure to asbestos is the basis for many injury lawsuits filed by victims with lung cancer or their surviving families. Even former smokers are able to pursue injury claims against any defendant who exposed them to asbestos at some point in time, as asbestos is a known carcinogen that can, as mentioned either contribute to or directly cause cancer development.

Another win for lung cancer plaintiffs recently occurred in Florida, after a million-dollar verdict for a widow was upheld against Phillip Morris. Nikitas Damianakis was a lifelong smoker who ultimately passed away from his smoking-related illness. His widow, Elaine, sued Philip Morris for the wrongful death of her husband, who died from complications of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Their lawsuit stemmed from the Engle class action in Florida that, in the mid-1990s, sued American cigarette manufacturers and won more than $145 billion for those who contracted serious illnesses from becoming addicted to cigarettes. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class, yet allowed each individual plaintiff to sue Big Tobacco on their own personal claims.

Additionally, the state’s highest court ruled that class members could use the Engle jury’s eight findings, including that smoking causes cancer, that nicotine is addictive, and that Big Tobacco sold cigarettes that they knew to be defective and unreasonably dangerous. Nikilas became a regular smoking after immigrating to the United States in 1964, favoring Philip Morris’ Marlboro cigarettes.

There are about 700,000 so-called “Engle progeny” plaintiffs that are able to sue Big Tobacco using the jury’s original findings of liability. Many have begun to do so, winning millions in similar verdicts throughout the state of Florida. In order to file a successful case, these plaintiffs must prove that their smoking-related illness began to manifest while they lived in Florida, that the illness caused by the victim’s addictedness to nicotine-containing cigarettes, and that the illness started to manifest before the November 1996 cutoff date.

Our team of lung cancer lawyers have been fighting on behalf of patients and their families for 30 years. We have a wide network of legal personnel, medical experts, and investigators that allows us to take on cases throughout the country, and get to the bottom of how your illness developed. If you have any questions about filing a lung cancer lawsuit, contact our firm today for a free legal consultation.

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