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NY High Court Upholds Reversal of $20.5M Tobacco Verdict
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The Cigarette Smoking Man says: 'Smoke Morleys!'The New York Court of Appeals has upheld the reversal of a $20.5 million verdict, ruling that the estate of a smoker who died of lung cancer could not assert a negligent product design claim against two cigarette makers based on the availability of a safer “light” cigarette.

Writing for a 6-1 majority, Judge Robert S. Smith concluded that the smoker, Norma Rose, who died during the appeal, had failed to prove an “essential element” of her products liability claim; that light cigarettes, which have low tar and nicotine levels, have the same “utility” as regular cigarettes.

The only utility of a cigarette, Smith wrote, “is to gratify smokers” and Rose’s lawyers “made no attempt to prove that smokers find light cigarettes as satisfying as regular cigarettes — indeed it is virtually uncontested that they do not.”

  
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To have ruled that the availability of light cigarettes rendered regular cigarettes defective in design, he noted, “would amount to a judicial ban” on their sale.

The court’s ruling in Adamo v. Brown & Williamson affirmed a 3-2 decision of the c, 1st Department, that reversed the $20.5 million verdict against Brown & Williamson and Philip Morris.

The jury verdict, returned in 2005, was divided into $3.4 million for compensatory damages and $17.1 million for punitive damages.

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The sole dissenter at the Court of Appeals, Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr., wrote that the majority had improperly shifted the burden of proving consumer acceptability to Rose. He would have remanded the case for a new trial at which the two defendants could present evidence on the issue.

Rose smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 40 years before quitting in 1993, according to the majority opinion. Two years later she was diagnosed with lung cancer and an allegedly related neurological disorder.



Via Law.com.



 

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