During the last decade, various plaintiffs have attempted to hold tobacco manufacturers responsible for wrongful death, injury, or medical expenses related to cigarette smoking or other tobacco use. You should consult with a product liability attorney.
On August 17, 2006, a U.S. district judge issued a landmark opinion in the government's case against Big Tobacco, finding that tobacco companies had violated civil racketeering laws and defrauded consumers by lying about the health risks of smoking.
In a 1,653 page ruling, the judge stated that the tobacco industry had deceived the American public by concealing the addictive nature of nicotine plus had targeted youth in order to get them hooked on cigarettes for life. (Appeals are still pending).
Findings from independent studies support the judge’s ruling. Researchers found that adolescents approaching cigarettes as a rite of passage, believed they could quit whenever they wished -- but in reality were unable to stop because cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive. Once hooked, most young smokers continued to smoke until eventually many fell ill with tobacco–related illnesses.
Because cigarettes cause lung cancer, emphysema, heart attacks and strokes, medical experts consider smoking to be the single largest preventable cause of premature death in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related, and tobacco use totals more than $75 billion in annual medical costs.
The World Health Organization (WHO), claims that about 650 million smokers on planet earth will die from a preventable tobacco related illness.
The Link Between Smoking and Lung Cancer, and Other Illnesses
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cigarettes and smokeless (chewing) tobacco should be considered nicotine delivery devices. When inhaled, nicotine passes from the lungs into the bloodstream where it takes 10 seconds to reach the brain. In about 20 seconds it is dispersed throughout the entire body.
Nicotine can act as either a stimulant giving the smoker an energy kick or as a tranquilizer, to relax the smoker. Once nicotine has stimulated the adrenal glands, epinephrine is released into the blood. Epinephrine increases the risk of heart disease by: 1) narrowing the arteries, 2) raising the blood pressure, 3) raising the levels of fat in the blood and 4) increasing the heart rate and flow of blood from the heart.
Smoke, whether from a cigarette, pipe, or cigar is made up of many toxic chemicals, including tar and carbon monoxide. Tar forms deposits in the lungs, causing lung cancer and respiratory distress. Carbon monoxide limits the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry and may allow fat to build up in lining of the arteries.
Three types of lung cancer strongly associated with cigarette, pipe and cigar smoking as well as secondary smoke are:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: a type of non-small cell lung cancer, which occurs mostly in older people of both sexes and makes up about 35% of the lung cancer cases in the US. This smoking-related lung cancer tends to be localized in the chest, making it easier to treat than other types of lung cancer that spreads more quickly.
- Adenocarcinoma is associated with secondary smoke inhalation because it frequently appears in non-smokers. It is the most common lung cancer, making up about 40% of lung cancer cases in America. It is also the most prevalent lung cancer in women.
- Small cell lung cancer is more aggressive and spreads more quickly then other types of lung cancer. It is most commonly found in smokers or former smokers. Although it responds to chemotherapy, it has usually spread to the lymph nodes or to other organs by the time it has been diagnosed. This smoking-related lung cancer represents about 20% of all lung cancers.
Non-smokers are exposed to second hand tobacco smoke by being in the same room as a smoker. Victims of secondary smoke exposure are more likely to develop lung cancer, asthma, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, heart disease, sinus cancer and eye and nose irritation.
Various Tobacco Lawsuits
In November 1999, lawsuits against large tobacco by 46 states, four territories and the District of Columbia were all settled for $206 billion, which made this the largest civil settlement in U.S. history.
Known as the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), this agreement specified that tobacco pay the various states and territories the agreed amount in installments over a 25 year period. The MSA also restricted the tobacco company’s ability to win over younger audiences to smoking by marketing cigarettes at large sporting events, on transit systems, billboards or on TV.
This agreement also altered the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) authority to regulate tobacco products and smoking and placed limits on future tobacco litigation.
As a result, individuals may now bring tobacco suits only for the recovery of past and future compensatory damages (such as medical costs and lost wages).
In 2002, the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. (UST) the largest smokeless-tobacco company in the United States reached a non-disclosed settlement in a lawsuit brought by a former customer who developed tongue cancer after using UST's Copenhagen and Skoal brands of chewing tobacco. The settlement was the first time a tobacco company agreed to pay an individual for injuries caused by its products
Class action lawsuits have been brought against manufacturers of Low Tar and Light Cigarettes for false advertising, such as creating the impression that light cigarettes are safer than normal cigarettes, which they are not.
Various other class actions have been brought against employers by workers who allege that they were exposed to dangerous and unhealthy work environments through secondary smoke.
Who Can Sue
Tobacco lawsuits can be hard to win but if you have been injured because of tobacco or smoking or secondary smoke exposure, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
If you have lung cancer and are now, or were formerly, a smoker or used tobacco products, you may have a claim under the product liability laws. You should contact an experienced product liability attorney or a tobacco lawsuit attorney as soon as possible because a statute of limitations could apply.
There are a number of tobacco class action lawsuits still pending in the courts. A class action lawsuit is when a number of claimants come together and file a suit against a large corporation or organization in the hope that they will be able to get a better result as a group. In class actions, there is a lead plaintiff and then other claimants may be included, unless they choose to opt out. At the close of the case, the compensation is divided according to the wishes of the court. Once settled, all the claimants are barred from further litigation.
If your employer forced you to endure secondary smoke exposure, you should contact an experienced tobacco lawsuit attorney. Depending on your case, and the statutes of limitations, you may have a strong claim for compensatory damages. Historically, individuals have not done as well under class action tobacco lawsuits as they have under individual suits. This is because class actions are based on all the claimants having the same injury from the same product, whereas an individual may be entitled to a larger financial settlement with his/ her own unique case.
In order to successfully pursue a tobacco lawsuit, you should contact a reputable tobacco litigation or product liability attorney to assess your case. If you are part of a pending class action tobacco lawsuit and are considering whether to opt out or stay involved, you need to speak with a qualified attorney who can advise you on what is in your best interest.
Tobacco use (which includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, chewing tobacco) is the leading preventable cause of death and illness in our country. It causes more deaths annually than those killed by AIDS, alcohol, automobile accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined.
In 1995, Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that tobacco-related illnesses under Medicare accounted for $25.5 billion or about 14% of their total spending.
Approximately 80% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18. More than 5-million children living today will die prematurely because they decided to become smokers.
The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. Women who use tobacco during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies with various health disorders.
Each year, exposure to second hand smoke causes an estimated 3,000 non-smoking Americans to die of lung cancer and up to 300,000 children to suffer from lower respiratory tract infections.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently found that less than 7 percent of the $206-billion MSA settlement paid out to the 46 States thus far had gone to the anti-smoking programs for which it was ear marked. While lawyers ended up with fat checks ranging from $150 to $800 million, other money ended up in questionable pork barrel spending. For example, in North Carolina, politicians gave $200,000 to a facility for horse-riding competitions, and millions more went to a tobacco auction house and a museum for tobacco farming. In New York, almost $1-million went to a golf course, including $200,000 for golf carts.
- $1 million: In 1998, a Jacksonville, FL., jury ordered Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. to pay this amount to the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer after 48 years of smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes. The family claimed that the tobacco company had conspired to hide the health risks of smoking from the public.
- $300 million: A group of flight attendants banded together and brought a class action lawsuit against Northwest Airlines because they were exposed to secondhand smoke on long flights to Asia long after smoking was banned on U.S domestic flights. This was an out-of-court settlement with the money being used to set up a research foundation that would cover early detection of diseases for attendants. Ironically, while millions of the settlement money was paid to attorneys, nothing was given to the 60,000 flight attendant plaintiffs.
- $5.5 million: A former TWA and American Airlines flight attendant who alleged years of secondhand smoke exposure led to her chronic sinusitis, won her case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and Lorillard. The verdict is believed to be the first time a jury ruled against the tobacco companies in a secondhand smoke case.
- $37.5 million: A retired Miami lawyer alleged that three of the nation's leading tobacco companies contributed to his terminal bladder and oral cancer.
- $3.36 billion: The state of Mississippi settled in its Medicaid lawsuit against Big Tobacco.
- $3.36 billion: The State of Florida and Lorillard Tobacco Co. settled their Medicaid lawsuit.
U.S. Department of Justice Litigation vs. the Tobacco Companies.