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Woman with Lung Cancer Sues Tobacco Company for False and Misleading Advertising


In 2005, the family of a woman who had died of lung cancer filed a civil suit against four cigarette manufacturing companies for her untimely death. The family stated that the woman had been enticed to start smoking at just 14 years of age and that she had smoked heavily throughout her life. A New York Injury Lawyer said the suite claimed that cigarette manufactures that were named in the suit had enticed her with attractive advertising that displayed cigarettes as harmless and in some situations in the early years of her addiction, the advertisements portrayed cigarettes as a healthy way to prevent illness.

Her family maintains that she was always concerned about her health and that she had taken several steps over the years to improve her risks based on more advertising by the tobacco companies. When the tobacco companies marketed lite cigarettes, they implied that these cigarettes had less tar and carcinogens than regular cigarettes. She switched to lite cigarettes to be more healthy. The family testified that she had tried unsuccessfully to stop smoking on numerous occasions and that she was not successful because she had become addicted to the cigarettes.

The family further stated that the tobacco companies knowingly manufactured these cigarettes that are dangerous, even though there were less dangerous alternatives that they could have produced. The suit specifically stated documentation that showed that the tobacco companies were aware of several options that could be less hazardous to the health of persons who chose to smoke and negligently dismissed producing them. These options included cigarettes made with coarser tobacco so that less of the tar is ingested. Another option that had been dismissed was manufacturing cigarettes without tar or other chemicals that are specifically dangerous. The family noted that the woman had specifically chosen filtered and lite cigarettes in an attempt to make her habit less damaging to her health. That was used as an example of the strength of her addiction as well as her desire to not harm herself with the use of cigarettes.

In 1969, the federal government of the United States began requiring tobacco companies to place warnings on their cigarette boxes stating that smoking has been proven dangerous to the health of people who smoke. Later, a Suffolk County Personal Injury Lawyer said very specific warnings were required on these boxes including warnings that cigarettes can cause birth defects, birth injuries, emphysema, and lung cancer. Since the woman died of lung cancer, her family maintains that the company should have been aware that they were endangering people’s lives with their products and that they should be liable for their actions.

The court maintains that it is true that much of the advertising prior to 1969 for cigarettes was deplorably misinformed, any action must relate only to that time period and not to the time period following 1975. The term between 1969 and 1975 was a transitional period in the marketing and control of the tobacco industry. A Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer said much of the advertising prior to 1969 did not display the facts about the health risks associated with tobacco use. By 1975, most people were aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking and many were taking steps to stop smoking entirely. The tobacco industry was under fire for their previous attempts to entice people with misleading and just plain untrue advertising that they had used prior to 1969. The fact that this woman became addicted prior to 1969 is a major issue in this case.

The family of the victim, testified that during the time period of 1964 to 1969, the woman had become addicted to the cigarettes and was not able to rid herself of her addiction until she sought medical assistance in the 1980’s only five years before her death.

This case demonstrates that there was a need for more guidelines and investigation into the advertising practices of tobacco companies long before the laws were written. However, the court determined that many of the motions made on both sides were not valid under the circumstances to the case at hand. Ultimately, the tobacco companies had requested that a summary judgment be granted to them to dismiss the case in its entirety because the family of the victim testified that no one knew why the woman had begun smoking at 14 years of age. The husband testified that when he met his wife, they were both smokers. He stated that they had changed brands multiple times over the years that followed. His wife usually changed to whatever brand that he was smoking at the time. He testified that they had switched to lite cigarettes in order to be healthier about smoking. He testified that they had switched to one brand because he remembered that the add had enticed him to switch and that she had followed his example. He testified that she had attempted to stop smoking each time that she became pregnant with one of their children, but that her attempts had only lasted a week or so each time. He stated that he believed that the tobacco companies were aware of the fact that their products were addictive and that they had intentionally pursued customers in an attempt to get them addicted to their products even with the knowledge that they were endangering their client’s lives. They demonstrated that this active pursuit was evident by much of the advertising in the 1950’s and 1960’s which involved candy and bubblegum cigarettes to encourage children to want to smoke real cigarettes when they got older. They produced advertising campaign examples that cited cigarette smoking as a means to prevent health problems. The family maintains that advertising like this, was not just misguided, it was criminal.

The family believes that the tobacco companies committed acts of fraud against the citizens when they began these campaigns. They feel that the tobacco companies should be held accountable for their behavior by the courts. The tobacco companies countered with the fact that the woman had chosen to follow her husband’s lead in smoking. They maintain that if anyone is to blame for this woman smoking, it was her husband who chose the brands and led the way. They also maintained that two of the tobacco companies named in the suit should be granted summary judgment excusing them from the suit because no evidence was produced to show that the woman had smoked any of their brands of cigarettes prior to 1969 when they were made aware of the health hazards of smoking.

The Supreme court agreed with the two companies that had proven that the woman did not start smoking their brands until after 1969 and they were vacated from the law suit and granted their request for summary judgment. In the case of the other two tobacco companies, the courts determined that the family had created a case with triable issues of fact that was appropriate for a jury to determine. Based on the evidence that was provided, the case was sent to trial on most of the basis precented.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates a New York personal injury attorneys are available to represent you from convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. There is no need to suffer from an injury that could have been prevented, whether it involves medical malpractice or a car accident. Our New York slip and fall lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations.

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