Jury Rejects Smoker's Claims

Published in CSP Daily News

First new individual smoking, health case in five years for PM USA outside of Engle cases

RICHMOND, Va. -- Philip Morris USA (PM USA) said earlier this month that a federal jury in White Plains, N.Y. rejected a smoker's lawsuit on the grounds that the smoker did not have primary lung cancer. After a three-week trial before Judge Cathy Seibel in U.S. district court in White Plains, N.Y., a nine-person jury ruled unanimously that PM USA is not liable for the death of a young mother of four, said a Thomson Reuters report.

Grill's complaint, filed in 2005 by plaintiffs lawyers at Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, said Ann Grill started smoking Marlboro cigarettes [image-nocss] in junior high school and smoked at least a pack a day for 20 years. In 2003, at the age of 41, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She and her husband sued, blaming PM USA for making a dangerous and addictive product. By the time trial started last month, Grill was dead.

PM USA and Shook, Hardy & Bacon put up an aggressive defense, said the report, filing a flurry of motions contesting Levy Phillips' fact and expert testimony. To counter the claim that Grill would not have smoked if she had been aware of the dangers of cigarettes, Frank Kelly of Shook Hardy asked the judge for permission to introduce evidence that Grill used drugs in high school.

The tobacco company's primary defense, however, was that Grill's cancer began in her stomach and metastasized to her lungs. The jury agreed, finding that Levy Phillips had not shown by a preponderance of the evidence that Grill's cancer originated in her lungs. That finding ended the case, the report said.

"[The] defense verdict marks the first new individual smoking and health case tried by PM USA in five years anywhere in the country outside of the Engle cases in Florida," Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of PM USA, said in a statement. "We believe the jury's verdict shows that PM USA continues to have strong defenses to these types of lawsuits."

The case is Grill v. Philip Morris USA.

Richmond, Va.-based Altria directly or indirectly owns 100% of each of PM USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC, John Middleton Co., Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Ltd., and PMCC. Altria holds a continuing economic and voting interest in SABMiller plc.