Massachusetts Tobacco Lung Cancer Lawsuits
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been the location of major victories in tobacco lung cancer lawsuits. This page describes some of the law and procedures available to lung cancer victims in Massachusetts as well as two large jury verdicts obtained in cigarette cases in Massachusetts.
Law and Procedures for Lung Cancer Cases in Massachusetts
There are procedures in Massachusetts to expedite a case in which a person is living with lung cancer and has advanced stage lung cancer. These procedures are designed to increase the chances that the lung cancer victim (plaintiff) will be alive for the trial of the case. In the event, the plaintiff passes away before trial, Massachusetts allows for a representative of the estate of the plaintiff (usually a spouse or close family member) to be substituted as the plaintiff in the case. The damages of the lung cancer victim “survive” death and still can be recovered in court by the estate. Also, Massachusetts recognizes damages for “wrongful death” which are recoverable by any surviving spouse or children (next of kin). If a person with lung cancer dies before trial, Massachusetts also permits punitive damages to be decided by the jury.
The law that will apply in a tobacco case in Massachusetts is based on the “common law” that has applied for more than 100 years in civil cases. This common law has been applied by the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts to address several unique issues in tobacco cases. For example, the SJC has determined that a cigarette is designed defectively if the cigarette manufacturer could have designed the product in a manner that reduced the risks of the product. This is an important part of the law because there is strong evidence that the tobacco industry could have made cigarettes that were either less addictive or non-addictive, but instead manipulated the levels of nicotine to intentionally make the cigarettes as addictive as possible. Another important part of the law in Massachusetts is that the cigarette manufacturer can be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees and costs relating to the entire lawsuit so long as it’s proven that the manufacturer engaged in “unfair or deceptive” conduct sometime after 1979. This part of the law known as “Chapter 93A” can often be used in tobacco cases because the tobacco companies engaged in an intentionally deceptive conspiracy to mislead the public as to the dangers of smoking up through the 1990s.
Large Verdicts in Smoking Lung Cancer Cases in Massachusetts
In October 2018, Jerome Block, a partner in our law firm, was the lead trial lawyer in the Summerlin case- a tobacco lung cancer trial in Massachusetts in which the jury awarded $13.1 million in compensatory damages and another $30 million in punitive damages. After the $43.1 million jury verdict, the Court then issued an Order pursuant to Chapter 93A requiring the defendant (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company) to pay the attorney’s fees and the costs of the case to plaintiffs. The Summerlin trial was broadcast on The Courtroom View Network and was also featured in an episode of the Great Trials Podcast. The jury in Summerlin found in favor of the plaintiffs and against R.J. Reynolds on all claims including failure to warn, breach of implied warranty (design defect), fraud and punitive damages. Mr. Summerlin became addicted to menthol cigarettes when he was a teenager in the 1950s and his addiction continued into the 2000s. Mr. Summerlin was unable to quit smoking despite many attempts to do so even though he used many different quit aids including nicotine gum, nicotine patch and was prescribed Chantix by his physician. Before Mr. Summerlin died of lung cancer, he testified by videotape and the jury was able to see and evaluate his testimony at trial. Mr. Summerlin’s widow and one of his adult sons testified during the trial as well.
Another large jury verdict in Massachusetts occurred in 2010. In that case (Evans), the Plaintiff also smoked menthol cigarettes. The jury awarded $50 million in compensatory damages and $81 million dollars in punitive damages. According to published reports, the defendant paid $79 million to settle the case. The highest court in Massachusetts known as the SJC issued a decision in Evans that set forth the law that has been applied in subsequent tobacco cases in the Commonwealth including the Summerlin case.
If you or a loved one were addicted to cigarettes in Massachusetts and later developed lung cancer or another tobacco illness, our law firm will evaluate your case free of charge. If we accept your case, you will not pay us any attorney’s fees unless we recover money for you. Feel free to contact our experienced and caring lawyers today by calling the number on this web page, filling out a website form or having a “live chat” on this page.
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