Tobacco Litigation - Overview & History
**Current tobacco clients, for updates please see Tobacco Special News**
What's the law
Whether a tobacco manufacturer is liable for the death and injury of a cigarette consumer is a question that we at Wilner Hartley & Metcalf have been deeply interested in for many years. We filed Carter v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., in Jacksonville in 1996 as a test case to answer this question. We asserted that the tobacco industry had acted irresponsibly by failing to warn about the known and knowable hazards of the product, and that they had concealed nicotine addiction from their customers. In November 2000 the Florida Supreme Court affirmed our jury verdict in Carter, proving that our view of the law was correct.
Carter v. Brown and Williamson -- Big tobacco's fall.
On Friday, June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the verdict in Carter v. Brown and Williamson, making that case the first successful case against the cigarette industry that has been affirmed on appeal.
Led by Mr. Wilner, the firm won the first modern case against big tobacco. Beating the huge and powerful cigarette cartel was considered impossible. They had racked up an almost perfect record in court, and few attorneys dared challenge them. But when Grady Carter, a former smoker with lung cancer, sought the firm's help in 1995, Woody Wilner was not afraid of the tobacco barons. Drawing on a wealth of experience in medical and scientific litigation, Mr. Wilner discovered the documents and the evidence that would, for the first time, reveal tobacco's dirty secrets of nicotine spiking, influence peddling, and fraudulent science. The $750,000 verdict for Mr. Carter sent shock waves through the industry. Tobacco stocks dropped over $14 billion dollars in one afternoon. Carter was hailed throughout the world as permanently changing the climate for cigarette manufacturers. After Carter, the state attorneys general successfully sued the tobacco industry, and reforms in marketing and disclosure soon followed. Carter, followed gavel-to-gavel on Court TV, remains a landmark case that changed the face of American jurisprudence.
The Engle Class
In 2000 a statewide class named Engle v. Tobacco was tried in Miami. Although Mr. Wilner did not actively represent the class members in Miami, a great many class members are in fact represented by the firm. The class was awarded a record setting $145 billion in punitive damages after over one year of trial.
We at Wilner Hartley & Metcalf will continue to monitor the Engle class and will post on this website any changes in its status.
Send us an email if you are interested in obtaining any of the following articles:
*The scientific basis for liability of the tobacco industry, by Norwood S. Wilner and Allan Feingold, M.D.: This paper discusses the diseases caused by cigarettes, nicotine addiction, when the cigarette industry knew about the hazards, and many of the documents that show how the industry manipulated nicotine and deceived its customers.
*The hazards of cigarettes, by Norwood S. Wilner: In this slide show presentation, Mr. Wilner discusses the true hazards of cigarettes. This is what the warning label fails to disclose.
*Nicotine addiction, by Norwood S. Wilner: Nicotine addiction is a serious disease that affects over 90% of regular cigarette users. Chronic nicotine exposure causes permanent changes in brain cells. All major scientific organizations agree that nicotine is addictive like heroin or alcohol. Internal cigarette company documents now confirm that the major manufacturers have known about nicotine addiction for years, but publicly denied it. They have used this knowledge to design their cigarettes for maximum addictive potential, knowing that addiction was the key to profits.
*The cigarette industry conspiracies, by Norwood S. Wilner & Allan Feingold, M.D.: This document summarizes the three major conspiracies of the cigarette industry: the conspiracy of the TIRC or Tobacco Industry Research Counsel; the Nicotine Conspiracy of the 1960''s, where key executives hid scientific research proving nicotine addiction from the Surgeon General; and the Committee of Counsel Conspiracy, where company lawyers met in secret to subvert the scientific discoveries and communications of cancer, lung disease, and addiction.
*The fraud of "low tar" cigarettes, by Norwood S. Wilner: This paper discusses the fraud of so-called "low-tar" and "low-nicotine" cigarettes. These products have not been found to be safer than ordinary cigarettes. Their introduction in the 1970''s has corresponded to a startling increase in cancer rates.
*Sample package insert, created by Norwood S. Wilner & Allan Feingold: This multipage insert tracks what the cigarette companies should have included in every pack of cigarettes.
*Florida Supreme Court brief in Carter v. Brown & Williamson: This brief was filed by the firm in support of its appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The Court upheld the Carter judgment on November 22, 2000.
*Florida Supreme Court Opinion in Carter v. Brown & Williamson: This opinion upheld the jury verdict entered 8/96 in the amount of $750,000.
*Digest of internal cigarette company documents, prepared by Wilner Hartley & Metcalf: Summarizes over 1500 critical internal documents from cigarette industry files. The internal knowledge of the industry giants including R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson, and Liggett is summarized in the areas of cancer research, nicotine addiction, and public relations.
*The criminal negligence of the cigarette industry by Norwood S. Wilner and Allan Feingold, M.D.: This slide show, from actual trial records, documents the medical and liability case against the cigarette industry. It includes sections on hazards, addiction, conspiracy, and more.
*Dangerous Deception: The misleading marketing of cigarettes, by Norwood S. Wilner.