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MIAMI — (Mealey’s) The attorney for the widow of a man who died of lung cancer after smoking for more than 45 years told a jury in the Florida 11th Judicial Court on Oct. 31 that his client’s husband “needed to smoke” because he was addicted to nicotine (Diane Schleider, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 13-2013-CA-006984, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.).
In his opening statement, Alex Alvarez of the Alvarez Law Firm in Miami, representing Diane Schleider, said that Andrew Schleider “smoked everywhere” because of his addiction to cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., even leaving church services, the movies and restaurants in order to smoke and continuing to smoke after he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
(Click here to see a video excerpt of plaintiff attorney Alex Alvarez’s opening statement.)
Andrew Schleider, who died of lung cancer in May 1997 at the age of 46, began smoking at the age of 11 and eventually smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Alvarez told the jury that Andrew Schleider made a number of attempts to quit smoking, including going cold turkey, using gum and patches and undergoing hypnosis.
Alvarez urged the jury to remember that Andrew Schleider began smoking at a young age and at a time when smoking was seen as normal, even “glamorous.” Alvarez also outlined the history of cigarette marketing in the United States, noting that the tobacco industry was once “the number one advertiser on TV.”
In his opening statement Frank Bayuk of King & Spalding in Atlanta, representing Reynolds, reminded the jury that the case is “about one smoker.” The case “isn’t about banning cigarettes” or “about whether cigarettes cause cancer,” Bayuk said.
Further, Bayuk said, the medical evidence to be introduced by Diane Schleider is insufficient to prove that Andrew Schleider’s cancer was caused by smoking.
(Click here to see a video excerpt of defense attorney Frank Bayuk’s opening statement.)
The suit is part of the Engle class action, which was decertified after trial 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 Sarah Zabel is presiding over the trial.
In addition to Alvarez, Diane Schleider is represented by Gary Paige of Gordon & Doner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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