Altria, Lorillard Win Claims in Cigarette Trial
Altria Group Inc. (MO), Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) and Lorillard Inc. (LO) defeated most of the claims in lawsuits brought by more than 700 West Virginia residents seeking damages for death and injury caused by smoking.
A jury in state court in Charleston today ruled in the cigarette makers’ favor on all but one question in the trial, which began April 22, according to an online feed from Courtroom View Network.
The jurors, who deliberated part of yesterday and today, found against the smokers on claims of failure to warn, negligence and fraudulent concealment. The jurors agreed with the smokers’ claim that the manufacturers are liable for the defective design of ventilated filter cigarettes.
The verdict resolves most of the liability questions in a group of suits that were originally consolidated for trial purposes in 2000. An earlier attempt to try the case ended in a mistrial in 2011 after two weeks. If the plaintiffs had won, jurors would have been asked to determine whether the companies engaged in conduct that would support an award of punitive damages.
Individual trials may be held in the cases based on defective-design claims involving filtered cigarettes, Circuit Judge Arthur Recht told lawyers today.
Officials at Richmond, Virginia-based Altria didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the verdict. Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds American, and Ronald Milstein, Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard’s general counsel, also didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
The case is In Re Tobacco Litigation (Individual Personal Injury Cases), 00-C-5000, West Virginia Circuit Court, Kanawha County (Charleston).
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