Tobacco companies won a big victory against smoker plaintiffs in Kanawha Circuit Wednesday - essentially by arguing, as the defense lawyer did, that cigarettes "are a naturally dangerous product and can't be made safe, and that everyone has known they are dangerous and addictive for a very long time."
The jury's decision is a blow to the lawsuit lottery
industry in West Virginia.
But it is a victory for common sense. Barring some deception or defect in a product, people shouldn't win compensation for known risks they took voluntarily.
After hearing four weeks of argument in the
13-year-old case, a jury found that R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Lorillard, American Tobacco and Brown and Williamson were not liable for the ill-nesses suffered by smokers who used their products.
Jurors decided the companies:
- Were not negligent.
- Did not design defective products.
- Did not fraudulently withhold information about their products.
- Did not fail to warn smokers of the dangers.
- Did make reasonable attempts to make cigarettes safer with the use of filters, changes in paper, and changes in tobacco treatment.
- Should not have to pay punitive damages.
Thus, only about 100 of the original 700 claims