Jury Deliberations Slated To Begin in Ex-Smoker’s Lawsuit Against Philip Morris
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury is scheduled to begin deliberations today in a "closely watched" lawsuit filed by a California ex-smoker who has lung cancer accusing Philip Morris of negligence, fraud and making a defective product, the Los Angeles Times reports. In closing arguments delivered on Friday, plaintiff's attorney Michael Piuze, citing internal company memos, said that Philip Morris "concealed the addictiveness of smoking" and "conspired with its rivals" to give smokers a "psychological crutch" to continue smoking, the Times reports. However, Philip Morris attorney Peter Bleakley said the tobacco giant did nothing to induce Newport Beach resident Betty Bullock to start or keep smoking, saying she knew the dangers of smoking when she started in the 1950s (Levin, Los Angeles Times, 9/23). The case marks the first against a tobacco company to reach trial since the state Supreme Court ruled in August that California smokers can file suit against the tobacco industry for fraud and negligence but cannot present most evidence of the industry's conduct between 1988, when the state enacted a law to protect tobacco companies from lawsuits, and 1998, when the state repealed the law (California Healthline, 8/21). The Times reports that legal and economic analysts are watching the case to determine if the new rules will affect whether tobacco companies end their lawsuit losing streak in California. Three cases decided prior to the state Supreme Court ruling resulted in multimillion dollar awards for the plaintiffs. Jurors in the Bullock case will decide whether to award compensatory damages and whether Philip Morris engaged in "malicious conduct." If the jury decides for the plaintiff on both issues, a second phase will take place to determine punitive damages (Los Angeles Times, 9/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.