Litigation

Florida Jury Hears Openings In Suit Tying COPD Death To 50 Years Of Smoking (Watch Video Excerpts Of The Opening Statements)

MIAMI — (Mealey’s) Trial got under way in state court on June 4 in a suit alleging that a Florida man’s death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was caused by his addiction to cigarettes (Joyce Hardin, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 07-46973-CA-22, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade Co.). 

Joyce Hardin alleges in a suit filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court that the death of her husband, Thomas Hardin, resulted from his more than 50 years of smoking cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Inc.  Thomas Hardin, a long-haul trucker, began smoking in 1947 at age 9, eventually smoking up to two packs per day.  He was diagnosed with COPD in 1996.  He quit smoking in 2005 and died in 2012 at age 74. 

Joyce Hardin contends that her husband was misled by representations and omissions by the tobacco industry about the health effects of smoking.  She alleges that he became addicted and was unable to quit for many years despite a number of attempts. 

Plaintiff’s Opening 

In his opening statement, Allan Kaiser of the Ferraro Law Firm in Miami, representing Joyce Hardin, told the jury that Thomas Hardin fit the definition of “addicted.” 

“Thomas Hardin smoked a consistent amount of cigarettes every single day,” Kaiser said.  “That’s what smokers do.  Smokers develop an amount of nicotine that satisfies them, that they need, and they smoke to that level every day.  That’s addiction.  You can’t smoke less because you aren’t getting satisfied.  And you don’t need to smoke more once you reach that level of nicotine satisfaction.” 

(Watch a video excerpt of  Kaiser’s opening statement.)

 Thomas Hardin was unable to go without a cigarette for more than a short period at a time, Kaiser said, noting that Joyce Hardin testified in a deposition that he would leave church to smoke.  “They went to a restaurant where you were not able to smoke and she’s going to tell you that Thomas would walk outside and smoke a cigarette,” Kaiser said.   

Defense Opening 

In his opening, Frank Bayuk of King and Spalding in Atlanta, representing R.J. Reynolds, told the jury that Thomas Hardin was not addicted. 

“The evidence about Mr. Hardin is that he could control his smoking.  He could control where and when he smoked.  And he would go places where he couldn’t smoke . . . and he would be fine and would delay his smoking until he could smoke again and would have no problem with it.” 

(Watch a video excerpt of Bayuk’s opening statement.

Further, Bayuk said, “When he quit smoking, when he decided to quit in 2005, he quit with no problem.  None of this withdrawal we’ve heard about.  No craving.  No relapse.” 

Engle 

The case is part of the Engle class action, which was decertified after trial and a $145 billion verdict in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court (Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 [Fla. 2006] [enhanced opinion available to lexis.com subscribers]).  The court allowed approximately 700,000 class members to pursue individual claims using findings of fact from the original Engle trial 

Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens is presiding. 

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