January 17th, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mark Gottlieb (617-373-2026) or Edward L. Sweda, Jr. (617-373-8462)
Boston – The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which was released today at the White House, highlighted the importance of litigation against tobacco companies over the past 50 years in the United States. Thanks to a landmark 2013 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in the case of Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., the Bay State is poised to become the most attractive state in which to file product liability lawsuits against tobacco companies.
“The current state of the law in Massachusetts is that any cigarette that addicts or maintains the nicotine addiction of consumers is defective. This precedent in Evans will tremendously benefit smokers who are seeking legal redress against tobacco manufacturers in Massachusetts,” said Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which is based at Northeastern University School of Law.
In the Evans case, a Suffolk County jury in 2010 awarded the son of Marie Evans, a woman who died of lung cancer in 2002 at the age of 54 after she had been given free packs of Newport cigarettes as a child at the Orchard Park Housing Project, $71 million in compensatory damages – a figure later reduced to $35 million. In June 2013, the SJC, while overturning an $81 million punitive damages award solely due to a flaw in jury instructions, upheld the compensatory damages award and ruled that it declines “to place addictive chemicals outside the reach of product liability and give them special protection akin to immunity based solely on the strength of their addictive qualities.” In October, Lorillard announced that it had settled the case for $79 million ($35 million plus accumulated interest) and dropped its threatened appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The SJC’s opinion in Evans now stands as a landmark precedent, binding in Massachusetts and potentially persuasive in any other jurisdiction in the country,” said Edward L. Sweda, Jr., PHAI’s Senior Attorney. “Anyone who developed a tobacco-related disease from smoking any cigarettes (other than “ultra low tar and nicotine” cigarettes) in Massachusetts can now recover their damages from the cigarette manufacturer,” Sweda added.
Massachusetts residents and their families who have suffered from a disease or death caused by smoking should contact PHAI.