Plaintiff attorney Alex Alvarez, of The Alvarez Law Firm, told the jury in Espinosa v. Philip Morris that Maria Espinosa died of a cancer that was legally caused by her addiction to cigarettes. Ms. Espinosa smoked for 46 years, up until her death, and for most of that time she smoked only Virginia Slims.
Ms. Espinosa’s cancer was found in her neck, but the original source of the cancer was unknown. Mr. Alvarez told the jury that 95% of “neck cancers,” found in the throat or oral cavity, were caused by smoking.
Shook Hardy Bacon’s Kenneth Reilly, representing Philip Morris, told the jury that Ms. Espinosa’s cancer was found in a lymph node, on the outside of her neck. Lymph nodes can capture cancer cells from many parts of the body, said Mr. Reilly, and Ms. Espinosa’s physician repeatedly searched the parts of Ms. Espinosa’s body where smoking-related cancers normally start, to find the source of the cancer, but he found nothing. Mr. Reilly pointed out that it would be the plaintiff’s burden to show that the cancer was smoking-related.
Moreover, the evidence in the case would show, Mr. Reilly predicted, that Ms. Espinosa loved to smoke, and that even addicted smokers can quit if they want to. Ms. Espinosa quit when she wanted to quit, said Mr. Reilly, and began smoking again when she wanted to begin.