R.J. Reynolds Found Liable for Wrongful Death of Longtime Smoker
Former St. Louis County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Allan Kaiser, received a verdict of $28 Million for the wrongful death of his client’s father who was a long time smoker.
David Ellsworth smoked Viceroy, Winston and Lucky Strike cigarettes, all products of tobacco company R.J. Reynolds. After 40+ years of smoking, Ellsworth was diagnosed with two separate cancers that spread into the chest wall. He underwent surgeries to remove a lung and ribs and later died as a result of the tumors. Experts testified that he would not have been aware of the risk of personal injury or wrongful death by smoking cigarettes, as R.J. Reynolds did not warn its consumers for many of the years the plaintiff was smoking.
R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies became aware of the effects of cigarette smoke on smokers in the 1950s. They did not start warning their consumers of the dangers of personal injury or wrongful death by smoking until federal law mandated tobacco companies to place warnings on their packaging. The plaintiff’s case was made largely in part by the experts’ testimony that addiction to tobacco products produced by R.J. Reynolds was unavoidable. Cigarettes have been found to be highly addictive, causing the smoker to have an extremely difficult time quitting smoking, resulting in the wrongful death of many consumers.
The jury in this wrongful death case found $3 Million in actual damages in favor of the plaintiff. They awarded an additional $25 Million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds. Ellsworth was ultimately found 50% at fault, which normally would have reduced the punitive damages award to $12.5 Million, but since RJR was found to be concealing documents that would have alerted the smokers, the jury assessed 100% fault to the tobacco company.
This is an wrongful death award among many cases being tried in the Miami, FL area. Formerly, a class action suit was filed and over $100 Billion was set aside for plaintiffs. In 2006, a judge ruled plaintiffs could recover awards individually. Multi-million dollar verdicts have resulted for the wrongful death of people killed by lung cancer, mesothelioma and emphysema as a result of smoking cigarettes.
This litigation is another example of how big business can sometimes let greed outweigh the health and welfare of its consumers. Had the dangers of smoking been realized by smokers earlier on than the 1985 mandate, it is feasible that many would have avoided cancer and death due to smoking. In the absence of criminal recourse, personal injury attorneys can assist family members in replacing the lost income and companionship their family members would have provided if they were still living. Nothing can replace a loved one, but tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds should take responsibility for the great harm and wrongful death their products caused unsuspecting consumers.
If you suspect your loved one suffered wrongful death due to defective and/or dangerous products, call our experienced personal injury attorneys today or contact us using our online form.