Each Friday, we’ll highlight the week’s Engle progeny proceedings and provide a look ahead to next week.
Heather Irimi, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, et al.
On cross-examination, Lisa Rodd testifies that she did not know details of her father Dale Moyer’s allegedly repeated attempts to quit smoking. Moyer’s family is suing R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco manufacturers in one of Florida’s Engle progeny suits. Closing arguments are expected in the trial on Monday. Click here to view the clip.
The second full week of trial included evidence of deceased smoker Dale Moyer’s health problems, as well as family testimony about his attempts to quit smoking. Dr. Francisco Civantos testified that Moyer’s respiratory problems were so severe, it made surgery on his parotid cancer too dangerous to perform. Dr. Joel Policzar then testified that the parotid tumor doctors discovered in Moyer was not likely to have been caused by the skin cancer he also suffered from, as defense claims.
Moyer’s daughters Dawn Mumtaz, Lisa Rodd, and Heather Irimi testified on their close relationship with their father, and recounted his many attempts to stop smoking. Rodd told jurors her father “hated” smoking and used a variety of cessation aids in an attempt to quit, while Mumtaz said Moyer eventually quit smoking only after being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Plaintiffs closed out their case-in-chief with Irimi telling jurors about her life with Moyer and the effect of his illness on him and his family.
Defendants opened their case Friday by reading deposition testimony from Moyer’s brother Larry into the record. In it, Larry stated it was “general knowledge” that smoking wasn’t healthy. He also testified that he urged his brother to quit smoking, telling him “It is going to kill you.”
Coming next week: Closing arguments are expected on Monday.
Mary Cooper v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al.
Mary Cooper’s counsel opened the week attempting to prove that her laryngeal cancer, which was not diagnosed until 2001, “manifested” itself prior to the November 1996 cutoff date for Engle class membership. Plaintiff’s witnesses included Drs. Craig Shapiro, Donald Weed, and Frank Kronberg, who testified concerning the polyps that were removed from Cooper in early 1996 and their potential relationship to her later laryngeal cancer. “No she didn’t have a confirmed diagnosis of cancer in November, but she had (cancer) there,” at that point, Kronberg said.
On Friday, Cooper took the stand, telling jurors that she began smoking because marketing and the prevailing culture at the time made it seem “glamorous. She testified that she received conflicting messages concerning the dangers of smoking in the ’60s and ’70s. Cooper, who spoke with the aid of an electrolarynx due to the effects of her laryngeal cancer, also described her smoking habit, including numerous unsuccessful attempts to quit.
Coming next week: Defendants will present the bulk of their case. Judge Jack Tuter told jurors he expects the case will go to them sometime in the middle of next week.
Robert A. Wilcox v. R.J. Reynolds, et al.
Plaintiff’s counsel called Drs. Luis Villa and Lawrence Brooks to testify in support of plaintiff’s contention that the cancer that ultimately killed smoker Cleston Wilcox originated in his lungs. Dr. Juan Barrio, one of Wilcox’s physicians, detailed Wilcox’s cancer diagnosis and told jurors he believed there was no question that Wilcox’s 60-year-long, pack-a-day habit caused the disease.
Throughout the week, Cleston’s family, including his widow Lorraine and son Robert, described Cleston’s smoking and the effect of his lung cancer and death. Robert said he believed his father was addicted to cigarettes and described how his father would smoke throughout the day. Robert also testified that his father tried to quit smoking at least four times, using nicotine patches and hypnosis, to no effect. Lorraine told jurors that Cleston was unable to sleep and became agitated when he tried to quit smoking. Recounting his death in 1994, she said “I miss him right now. I miss him all the time…. I wish he’d walk in my door with that big smile he always had on his face.”
Plaintiff’s counsel rested its case mid-morning Friday.
Coming next week: Defendants will proceed with the bulk of their case, potentially including whether Cleston was addicted and the origin of his cancer.
Robert Gore v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
In support of their suit over the death of long-time smoker Gloria Gore, plaintiff’s counsel opened the week with videotaped testimony from Philip Farone, a former Philip Morris employee. Farone detailed the methods the tobacco industry used to make smoking more palatable and sell more cigarettes. Later, Dr. David Burns’s testimony detailed a Surgeon General’s report on the effects of smoking in women and the increase in female smokers over the decades, driven by the tobacco industry’s target marketing.
On Wednesday, Gloria’s daughter Christina Savage described her life with her mother and the effects her death had on her father Robert. Savage told jurors that her father “could not function”after her mother’s death and began drinking much more heavily. On Thursday, Robert told jurors that his wife smoked throughout their 37-year marriage and was unable to quit smoking, despite multiple attempts. He then recounted his life with Gloria and the effect of cancer on her body. “It just tore me up to see her, you know, like that…. She went from 120 pounds down to 60 pounds,” he said. “It made me cry just to think about it. I’d pick her little body up… and she’d holler, scream. Nobody should have to ever go through that.”
On Friday morning, Gore’s counsel rested their case.
Coming next week: The defense is expected to conclude its case.
Sherri Hubbird v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Plaintiff’s counsel began the week with videotaped testimony from Dr. Robert Proctor, who detailed the history of the tobacco industry, its marketing efforts, and attempts to cover up medical evidence of smoking’s dangers.
Later, thoracic surgeon Dr. Robert Cerfolio testified that be believed the lung cancer that ultimately killed David Ellsworth, the smoker at the trial’s center, was caused by cigarettes, rather than by tubercular scarring or dust exposure. Dr. Charles O’Brien, an expert on nicotine addiction, told jurors that he believed Ellsworth suffered from tobacco use disorder. O’Brien pointed to Ellsworth’s inability to quit smoking even when coughing up blood, as among the behavior that supported his opinion.
On Wednesday, Ellsworth’s daughters Sherri Hubbird and Carrie Ellsworth testified about their lives with their father and his smoking habits. Hubbird said both her parents continued to smoke despite the cigarette smoke making her sick as a child. Hubbird also detailed the ways in which Ellsworth’s lung cancer debilitated him until his death, rendering him unable to continue to care for Carrie, who is disabled.
Coming next week: The defense is expected to present its case.