The widow of a long-time smoker recently won a $4 million jury verdict in California, after she sued Lorillard Tobacco Company for his death. Her husband died in 1998, from lung cancer, after smoking Newports for several decades. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are happy to report on this verdict, as we help our own lung cancer clients gain justice.
The plaintiff in this California case argued that Lorillard Tobacco negligently designed Newport cigarettes, which was a key factor in her husband, William Major’s, diagnosis and consequent death. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, and the jury ultimately decided that Lolliard was about 20% responsible for his death.
The jury concluded that Major himself was responsible for half of the harm done to him. The remaining 50% of blame was placed on the defending tobacco companies. Major’s widow also sued two other major tobacco companies: R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. Those companies settled out of court, however, agreeing to 33% of the responsibility for his death.
Major’s widow filed the lawsuit in 1999, one year after her husband died at age 55. She claimed that Lorillard’s Newport cigarettes were specifically designed to encourage addiction to nicotine, and that its additives, such as menthol, increased this addictiveness. She argued that Newport menthols were killing far more people than other types of cigarettes because Lorillard chose to include enhanced nicotine delivery instead of less-lethal designs.
The jury in her case agreed that Lorillard’s design of Newports did not outweigh its benefits, and that Major’s family lost more than $3 million in support and benefits from his premature death. They additionally awarded his widow $15 million for past and future non-economic damages, including suffering and loss of love.
R.J. Reynolds was recently hit with an unprecedented $23.6 billion verdict in a similar Florida case, which concluded this July. The plaintiffs in that care are the surviving wife and son of a man, Michael Johnson, who died of lung cancer when he was just 36-years-old. His wife and son sued R.J. Reynolds, claiming that the company was negligent in failing to inform its consumers that nicotine was addictive and cancer-causing.
To many millennials and younger generations, this claim may seem outlandish, because they have been taught since elementary school that smoking is dangerous and directly causes lung cancer. Americans of the older generations, however, had no such education. Tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds were allowed to market cigarettes on film, print, and radio as nothing more than a calming habit, and actively denied the risks until federal intervention.
Unsurprisingly, the tobacco company has asked the court to toss the $23 billion jury verdict, citing the obviously excessive award was caused by passion and prejudice. They claim that, throughout the entirety of the trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys “bombarded” the jury with “improper statements.” Among these statements included blaming R.J. Reynolds for the deaths of billions of smokers, questioning its patriotism, comparing it to murderers and drug dealers, and condemning it for defending itself at all in court.
The lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been working on cases just like this for over 30 years. We have a wide network of experts and co-counsels that allows us to help lung cancer patients in every state, free of charge. We never charge a fee unless we are successful in your case, winning you a settlement or verdict like the two described above. If you or someone you love was diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma contact our firm immediately at (800) 310-2222 for a free consultation and case review.