SOURCE: Schlesinger Law Offices

November 17, 2014 10:09 ET

Central Florida Man Secures $35 Million in Damages From Big Tobacco

Case Follows Florida Supreme Court Ruling That Nullified Class-Action Lawsuit

FT. LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwired - November 17, 2014) - Attorneys Scott Schlesinger, Steven Hammer and Jon Gdanski of Schlesinger Law Offices have achieved a $35 million judgment against two tobacco companies on behalf of a smoker who suffered severe health problems from his addiction to cigarettes.

A jury in Polk County, Fla. returned two verdicts: one for compensation and one for punishment during the fourth week of trial in which Schlesinger argued that his client, Richard Boatright, had been the victim of a marketing campaign that encouraged him to continue smoking after starting at age 12 after seeing a barrage of advertising that included the world-famous Marlboro Man. Tobacco company Philip Morris also engineered the Marlboro cigarette to be more powerfully addictive by use of additives such as ammonia compounds. These chemical additives freebase the nicotine molecule and increase the speed of its delivery directly to the brain, enhancing the addictive properties.

After smoking cigarettes for decades, Boatright developed emphysema and underwent two lung transplants.

"The jury award measured the harm caused by cigarettes and indicated to Mr. Boatright that the jury had placed great value on his loss and the suffering he has endured for decades," Schlesinger said. "This exacting of a substantial punitive verdict for intentional disregard of the rights and health of its customer also speaks to the company that the jurors want them to change."

Hammer and Gdanski also argued before the court that tobacco companies manufactured and sold defective cigarettes that resulted in Boatright's health problems. They also argued that the companies knew cigarettes would likely harm users, that they concealed or omitted information about the defects and in doing so, the tobacco companies acted in a reckless manner that constituted disregard or indifference to life.

Findings of defect, addictiveness, that cigarettes cause COPD and that tobacco manufacturers made and sold an unreasonably dangerous defective product and engaged in fraud and a conspiracy to commit fraud regarding the health harms and addictiveness of cigarettes were established in a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2006. The Court decertified the class in that class-action lawsuit against the same tobacco companies named in his lawsuit. The court said that smokers and their families needed to prove personal harm such as illness or death. Such class members benefited from the prior juries determination that cigarettes were defective products and that the companies had hid information about the risks of smoking.

After decertification the 2006 court allowed the class members to proceed individually, which is what Boatright and thousands like him chose to do.

In the four-week trial, Schlesinger showed jurors that Boatright was influenced in his early years that smoking was attractive and glamorous through the use of advertisements. This led to an addiction that he fought for many years. By the time Boatright quit smoking, his health problems were so extensive that he had to have both lungs replaced.

The trial team persuaded jurors that cigarette companies bore most of the responsibility for Boatright's health problems. They found Philip Morris and the Liggett Group liable for $15 million for his pain and suffering on November 10 and awarded $20 million in punitive damages two days later.

"Too often the degree of deceit that Philip Morris engaged in is not fully appreciated by the public," Hammer said. "Jurors in these trials get to see how tobacco companies long hid the truth on just how dangerous their products are."

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Schlesinger Law Offices is a personal injury law firm focused on holding big corporations and major manufacturers accountable for the harm they cause and the damage suffered by the general public through acts of negligence and misconduct. The firm is currently working on cases involving Big Tobacco, Accutane, Takata airbags, medication, defective medical devices, and defective drug products. For more information log on to

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