Cigarette manufacturers aren’t unsusceptible to claims by cigarette smokers who get sick, the state’s highest court ruled Monday in a decision that strengthens the case of a smoker who was stricken with laryngeal cancer and won a $28 million judgment versus R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co
Justices stated an exemption in liability law doesn’t forbid suits in Connecticut against cigarette makers. The Connecticut Supreme Court was asked to choose the issue by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which is thinking about R.J. Reynolds appeal of the award.
Norwich resident Barbara Izzarelli sued the company, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in federal court in 1999. She had smoked the company s Salem Kings brand name cigarettes for 25 years since she was a teenager in the early 1970’s prior to being detected with cancer in 1996. She not has a voice box, breathes through a tracheotomy hole in her throat and can only consume soft foods, according to court documents.
In her lawsuit, Izzarelli alleged R.J. Reynolds created and produced Salem Kings with enhanced addicting properties that delivered more carcinogens than needed. She sued under the Connecticut Products Liability Act, which permits claims by individuals hurt by malfunctioning or harmful items.
At the 2010 trial in federal court in Bridgeport, Izzarelli’s legal representatives introduced proof that the company manipulated nicotine in Salem cigarettes to get nonsmokers addicted and to get addicted smokers to smoke more cigarettes. The company found ways to enhance the nicotine kick including adding ammonia compounds, according to proof at trial.
Witnesses for R.J. Reynolds affirmed that Izzarelli’s cancer was not specific to Salem Kings, that tobacco was addicting and that any cigarettes she smoked would have had the same impact on her health.
The jury discovered in favor of Izzarelli, who now lives in Daytona Beach, Florida.
R.J. Reynolds argues in its appeal that an exemption in Connecticut’s law bars such suits. The exemption, which dates to 1965, essentially says tobacco is not unreasonably dangerous because the dangers of cigarette smoking are commonly understood.
The Connecticut Supreme Court turned down the company s arguments.
It makes it clear the cigarette companies don t have resistance from the horrible injuries and condition and death that their items trigger, stated David Golub, Izzarelli’s attorney. Golub stated his client’s case was the first one against a tobacco company to go to trial in Connecticut.
R.J. Reynolds officials decreased to comment Monday.
The appeal before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals continues to be pending.