Tobacco Industry Wins W.V. Medical Monitoring Suit
A West Virginia jury yesterday rejected a "landmark" class-action suit brought in an attempt to force the tobacco industry to "underwrite medical tests for the state's 250,000 smokers," the Los Angeles Times reports. After less than two days of deliberations, the six-member jury ruled that four major tobacco companies "weren't guilty of negligence, marketing defective products or breaching a promise to develop safer cigarettes" (Levin, Los Angeles Times , 11/15). Had the jury agreed with the plaintiffs' arguments that smokers "deserved" medical monitoring because Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard "sold a defective product with no regard for their customers' health," the companies would have had to pay for an annual screening and early detection program (AP/New York Times, 11/15). These tests would have included annual CT scans for lung cancer for all smokers over age 50, and could have cost as much as "hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars" (Los Angeles Times, 11/15). The Wall Street Journal reports that the case was "the first of its kind" to be tried in the United States. A "similar suit" is pending in Louisiana, but tobacco analysts do not believe these types of cases pose a serious threat to the industry. Thomas McKim, an attorney for R.J. Reynolds, said, "This is a very important victory for the industry. It tells us that tobacco companies aren't going to be held liable for the inherent risks of smoking" (Fairclough, Wall Street Journal, 11/15). The Los Angeles Times reports that a plaintiffs' victory "would have increased the likelihood of similar medical monitoring cases in many other states" (Los Angeles Times, 11/15).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.