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Tobacco Company and Filter Maker Must Pay More than $3.5 Million to Mesothelioma Victim in Florida Asbestos Case

Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds and a filter maker have been ordered to pay the estate of a Florida man more than $3.5 million. The company, which manufactures four of America’s 10 highest-selling cigarette brands—Winston, Camel, Salem and Doral, now owns Lorillard Tobacco Company. Acquired by R.J. Reynolds (RJR) in 2014, Lorillard used an “exclusive micronite filter” in its popular Kent brand cigarettes from 1952 to 1956. It was this filter that the plaintiff claims was responsible for his mesothelioma.

Ads for the cigarette touted it as “the safest smokes on the market” thanks to the special micronite filter that “removed seven times more nicotine and tars than any other leading cigarette filter.” What the ads neglected to mention is that micronite is crocidolite asbestos—the most dangerous of all asbestos minerals.

The order to pay the victim’s estate reaffirms a jury’s previous finding that Lorillard and global filter maker Hollingsworth & Vose (H&V) must each pay $1.76 million to the Florida man’s estate. According to a report by Bloomberg BNA, this amounts to 44% of the total $8 million awarded to the victim in the case.

This isn’t the only case RJR must face as the new owner of Lorillard. More than 60 years after Lorillard stopped using asbestos filters, nearly 30 cases involving the company’s exclusive micronite filters are scheduled to go to trial. Last year, more than 30 cases were scheduled.

Before it was acquired by RJR, Lorillard had already fought, without success, a number of cases involving their asbestos filters. According to Bloomberg BNA, a California appeals court upheld a $1.3 million compensatory verdict and a $700,000 punitive award against Lorillard and H&V back in 1997. “That award went to a clinical psychologist who a jury found switched to Kents because he thought the filters were safer than what he had smoked. He died in 1996 of mesothelioma. And, in 2011, a San Francisco jury awarded nearly $1.4 million to another former Kent smoker.”

Just this year, a Pennsylvania appeals court ordered Lorillard to comply with a Philadelphia-area judge’s order to produce a list of suits it compiled in 2011. “That list is to include not only Kent smokers who used the micronite filters, but also another category of plaintiffs—the workers at the plants that once produced the asbestos filters.”

“Whatever that list reveals,” reports Bloomberg BNA, “it’s unlikely the number of cases headed to trial will go up much in the years ahead because the number of people still alive who smoked with the filters, and worked with them, is dwindling, attorneys who have litigated the suits say.”

If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Even if you do not have symptoms, it is important to see your doctor to set up a monitoring plan that could help detect mesothelioma sooner and when the disease is in its most treatable stages. See your doctor to assess you risk today.

 

Sources

Hayes, Peter. "R.J. Reynolds Haunted by Deadly Legacy of Kent Asbestos Filters." Bloomberg BNA. The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., 20 Oct. 2018. Web 21 Dec. 2018. 

"R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company." SourceWatch.org. SourceWatch, 12 Oct. 2017. Web 21 Dec. 2018.