FORT LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwired - September 30, 2016) - Last week, a South Florida jury found that two cigarette companies were largely responsible for a man's death from lung cancer. The jury awarded more than $9 million in damages to his estate.
Dennis Oshinsky was a young teenager when he started smoking in the 1950s, a time when Philip Morris was launching its Marlboro Man ad campaign. Mr. Oshinsky became a lifelong Marlboro smoker and the brand became the world's deadliest product. His addiction to nicotine drove him to continue smoking, even when he was coughing up blood for several months. He eventually sought medical attention and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1993 at age 53.
Mr. Oshinsky's entire left lung was removed, but the cancer had already spread to his brain. He underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Several years later he was diagnosed with cancer yet again, but he was unable to receive curative treatment because he only had one lung. He died in 2000 at age 60, leaving behind his widow, Marilyn, now age 74, and two sons, Scott and Steven.
In the first phase of the trial, the jury saw internal company documents that revealed that cigarettes were engineered for maximum addictive impact, that filters were just a gimmick, and that the companies conspired to manufacture doubt about the health effects of smoking. The jury found that Mr. Oshinsky was addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes and that his addiction caused his lung cancer in 1993 and his death in 2000. They found that he reasonably relied on statements and omissions made by Philip Morris USA, Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. They awarded more than $6 million in compensatory damages to his estate. They also found that punitive damages were warranted against both companies.
In the second phase of the trial, the jury punished the companies for their intentional misconduct and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others. They issued a $2 million penalty to Reynolds and a $1 million penalty to Philip Morris.
"Although Mr. Oshinsky did not smoke Reynolds cigarettes, Florida law allows the jury to punish R.j Reynolds for its role in the industry's decades-long conspiracy to commit fraud," said Jonathan Gdanski, who represents the Oshinsky estate, along with Scott Schlesinger and Steven Hammer, all of Schlesinger Law Offices.
The higher penalty assessed by the jury against R.J. Reynolds may have been a by-product of the emphasis Philip Morris placed on its company currently being in the good graces of the government, as well as how they no longer advertise in magazines that appeal to youth.
Reynolds could not match those self-serving representations.
The basis for punishment included evidence regarding Natural American Spirit cigarettes, which are made by R.J. Reynolds' sister company. Both R.J. Reynolds and its sister company are owned by Reynolds American, Inc. Schlesinger described the Natural American Spirit brand as a form of 21st century health reassurance fraud. Packaging and marketing materials state that the brand is additive-free, natural, and organic, therefore implying that it is healthier than other brands. Even the menthol variety is marketed as additive-free, although menthol is an additive.
Schlesinger added that both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris work assiduously to this day to maintain their core business, which is the addiction of young people to nicotine, and nothing has been done to stop it.
Schlesinger Law Offices is national lead counsel in a federal class-action lawsuit against Reynolds American Inc., and its subsidiary, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, accusing the companies of deceptive advertising of Natural American Spirit cigarettes.
ABOUT SCHLESINGER LAW OFFICES
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 medication, defective medical devices, and defective drug products. For more information, log on to www.schlesingerlawoffices.com.