Broward Circuit Court Jury Rules Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Responsible for Damages
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Sep 11, 2015 (Marketwired via COMTEX) — A team of attorneys at Schlesinger Law Offices P.A. secured a $4.5 million jury verdict for Mary Cooper in a Broward Circuit Court trial against tobacco giants Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
In the Sept. 8 verdict, a six-person jury awarded Cooper a total of $4.5 million for past and future pain and suffering, lost earnings, reduced future earning capacity and medical expenses incurred from an ongoing battle with cancer that began nearly 20 years ago. Born in 1951, Cooper began smoking cigarettes in the early 1960s and remained addicted to nicotine for almost 40 years despite numerous attempts to quit. In 1996, Cooper discovered a lump in her throat that was later diagnosed as laryngeal cancer and resulted in a 2001 surgery to remove her larynx.
The attorney’s Scott Schlesinger, Steven J. Hammer, Jonathan Gdanski and Crane Johnstone represented Cooper in the lawsuit. The case stems from the landmark Engle class-action suit against the major tobacco companies, which were found to have conspired to conceal information about the harmful impact and addictive nature of cigarettes. The Florida Supreme Court decertified the class in 2006, opening the door for the findings in the Engle case to be used by individual plaintiffs like Cooper.
Cooper’s case was originally tried in Broward Circuit Court last year, but that jury was unable to reach a verdict. The retrial commenced last month.
“Phillip Morris controlled the future, because back in the 50s they said if they honestly had the knowledge and if they knew the harmful effects of cigarettes, they would stop making them,” said Scott Schlesinger during closing arguments. “This country could be a very different place because Mary would have never gotten sick and millions of people would have never gotten sick.”
For Cooper, the timing of the $4.5 million jury award is critical. Since the original trial, she found out that the cancer had returned and spread to her liver. Since 2001 Cooper has spoken through the use of an electrolarynx. In 2004 cancer was found in her lungs which required the removal of one lobe.
Despite periods of remission, cancer has been an ever-present reality in her life. Due to the caring treatment of her physicians, the cancer was kept at bay until recently. “Mary is a fighter,” Hammer said. “She fought all of these years to see her day in court. Our entire trial team is proud to have been able to represent her and get her justice from the jury.”