Ciccone v. R.J. Reynolds (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
George Ciccone smoked Reynolds tobacco cigarettes from age 11 until he died. He was diagnosed first with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and lung cancer, allegedly caused by his addiction to cigarettes.
In his opening Statement, Bill Wichmann (Law Offices of William Wichmann), said to the jury, “Why did George smoke so much, you might ask? The answer is simple. George got caught up in the addictive process as a young boy, years before there were warnings on the packages. A process that George knew nothing about, but a process that the tobacco companies knew everything about…Three to four packs per day over forty years..That much nicotine in cigarettes over that many years causes diseases like peripheral vascular disease, COPD, and lung cancer.”
“Mr. Boyce, the tobacco lawyer made an interesting comment,” Mr. Wichmann continued. “He talked about Spider Man. He said Spider Man says with great power comes great responsibility…Well let me tell you about the power. What the evidence in this case is going to show, that the nicotine in the RJR cigarettes was as powerfully addictive as heroin and cocaine…And they knew it back in the early 50′s when George lit up his first cigarette. They knew it, and they lied to the American people consistently, for decades.”
“In a curious, curious way,” said Mr. Wichmann, “An American Fortune 500 company is going to come in to this courtroom and tell you, ‘Our best customer is at fault for being just that, our best customer, and using it, and smoking it, and getting addicted, and dying from it.”
For defendant R.J. Reynolds, Kevin Boyce (Jones Day) told the jury, “Mr. Ciccone didn’t have lung cancer, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But it was interesting that Mr. Wichmann skipped over Mr. Ciccone’s entire life. He wants you to believe that he had a cigarette at age 11, and the next thing you know you’re in 2002 and he has lung cancer. That’s not real life. They skipped over forty years of smoking. Forty years of decisions. Forty years of behavior. Mr. Ciccone was a man who started smoking daily around 1962. He was 15 years old. He decided to drop out of high school…and this is when he first started buying cigarettes and smoking regularly. But from 1962 to 1990, Mr. Ciccone didn’t try to quit smoking one time.”
“They’ve got to show you that something Reynolds did or didn’t do was a direct and substantial cause of Mr. Ciccone’s behavior,” said Mr. Boyce, “that Reynolds made him do something that he didn’t want to do. That they caused his behavior. You will learn that there are millions of smokers in this country that are just like Mr. Ciccone. They don’t want to stop smoking. They know the risks of smoking, and they’ve made their own decisions about it. It’s perfectly natural for Mrs. Ciccone to wish that her husband had made different choices or had different priorities when he was alive. But it’s not appropriate for them to second-guess those choices in a lawsuit for money. Because ultimately, that is what this case is about. Are you going to reward Mrs. Ciccone with money because Mr. Ciccone smoked for so long without even trying to stop.“