A Florida judge was disqualified from a wrongful-death lawsuit after he compared a former chief executive officer of Philip Morris Cos. to Josef Mengele, the Nazi war criminal who performed medical experiments on concentration-camp prisoners.
Senior Judge A.C. Soud of the Duval County Circuit Court in Jacksonville made the remarks at a June 19 hearing on the admissibility of a 1971 videotape which shows Joseph Cullman, then head of cigarette maker Philip Morris, suggesting that lower birth weight caused by smoking during pregnancy may be desirable to some women who “might prefer having smaller babies.” Cullman died in 2004.
“It almost reminds me of Dr. Mengele -- I’m not saying he is -- of almost Dr. Mengele during World War II that wanted to use chemicals and different type things to alter -- genetic altering of people,” Soud said outside the presence of the jury, according to today’s appeals court decision to disqualify, which cites the trial transcript.
The lawsuit, brought by the surviving spouse of Rayfield Brown, a deceased smoker, will be reassigned, according to the office of Chief Judge Donald Moran of the Duval County Circuit Court. Soud is out of the office until Sept. 10 and unavailable for comment, according to Rose D’Amour, Moran’s judicial assistant.
Soud rejected an immediate motion by attorneys for Phillip Morris to disqualify him from the case. After a written motion for disqualification was denied on July 20, the attorneys petitioned the First District of Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.
Kenneth J. Reilly of Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Miami, who represented Philip Morris in the appeal, declined to comment on the ruling.
“We believe the decision speaks for itself,” Brian May, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, a unit of Richmond, Virginia-based Altria Group Inc., said in a phone interview.
The case is Brown v. Philip Morris USA, 16-2007-CA-011175 BX, Fourth Judicial Circuit Court, Florida (Jacksonville).