Judge Declares Mistrial in Class Action Suit Against Tobacco Companies
A West Virginia class-action lawsuit seeking to force five tobacco companies to pay for medical tests for healthy smokers has ended in a mistrial, the AP/Wall Street Journal reports. Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht declared a mistrial, although he retained the lawsuit's class-action status. After previously ruling that plaintiffs could not introduce addiction to cigarettes into evidence, Recht halted the trial Thursday when a plaintiffs' witness "made a veiled and apparently inadvertent reference to addiction." Last Friday, Recht said that he could declare a mistrial or "strip" the lawsuit of its class-action status. He said yesterday that plaintiffs could discuss the issue of smoking addiction in a later trial, concluding, "[T]here is no question that issues relating to nicotine, nicotine delivery, addiction, habit and the ability to quit smoking all are and should be an integral part of this case." In the future, he suggested that plaintiffs' lawyers restructure the case and focus on product design and liability. The West Virginia lawsuit targets R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris Cos., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Liggett Group Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. (AP/Wall Street Journal, 1/23).