Tobacco litigation

Tobacco litigation

Tobacco litigation refers to the lawsuits brought against various tobacco manufacturers, attempting to hold them responsible for wrongful death, injury, or medical expenses related to cigarette smoking and other tobacco use. Cases have been brought both by individual plaintiffs and by government officials, including U.S. State Attorney General. Punitive damages for the plaintiff have often been awarded as a result of a successful litigation. However, the vast majority of court decisions have been in favor of the defendant tobacco companies. [Stephen E. Smith, "'Counterblastes' to Tobacco: Five Decades of North American Tobacco Litigation", "Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues", vol. 14, Nov. 2002, pp. 1–32.]


There has been an increased number of deaths related to tobacco smoking in the past decades. People are more aware of the risks and dangers that can be associated with tobacco smoking and those who brought an action against tobacco manufacturers have most often lost a loved one. People have died as a result of lung cancer from tobacco smoking and were often unable to prove that it was the cigarettes of the tobacco manufacturer that caused the person's death. Tobacco litigation is not new but has involved thousands of people in class-actions as well as individual private lawsuits since the mid-20th Century. There was an explosion of tobacco litigations in the mid 1990s, worldwide, but in the United States in particular. [J.P.I. Law 2006 1]

The first major study that showed the causal link between smoking and lung cancer was published in a study done by Sir Richard Doll in 1950. [Doll, R., Hill, A.: "Smoking and carcinoma of the lung. Preliminary Report", "BMJ Journals" (1950) ii B.M.J. 739-748] .

ignificant cases

*March 2001: The Supreme Court affirmed the Circuit Court's ruling that the Food and Drug Administration could not class tobacco as a pharmaceutical, so could not control its production through the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. ("FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.")

*June 2002: A District Court in Kansas awarded $15 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco after calling the company's conduct "highly blameworthy and deserving of significant punishment." ("David Burton vs. R.J. Reynold's Tobacco")

*June 2002: A Miami jury held three cigarette companies liable for $37.5 million in a lawsuit involving an ex–smoker who lost his tongue to tobacco–related oral cancer. ("Lukacs vs. Phillip Morris")

*October 2002: A Los Angeles jury issued $28 billion in punitive damages against Phillip Morris. This was later reduced to $28 million. ("Betty Bullock vs. Phillip Morris")

*2004: A New York jury issued $20 million to the wife of a long-term smoker who died of lung cancer at the age of 57. This was the first time that a New York court had held a tobacco company liable for an individual smoker's death. ("Gladys Frankson vs. Brown and Williams Tobacco Corp")

Grounds of claims

Design defects

trict liability

Product liability

Depriving of health hazards information


Volenti non fit injuria

Contributory negligence

This has been one of the commonly used defences that defendants have used. Most of them will assert that it was the plaintiff himself that has contributed to his own injury as he has prior knowledge of the harm associated with tobacco smoking.



*Barbera, Francesco. " [ A Tobacco Lawsuit Primer] ". "Slate", April 25, 2000.
*Smith, Stephen E. "'Counterblastes' to Tobacco: Five Decades of North American Tobacco Litigation". "Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues", vol. 14, Nov. 2002, pp. 1–32.

External links

* [ UCSF Tobacco Industry Videos Collection]
* [ UCSF Tobacco Industry Audio Recordings Collection]

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