Tobacco Suit Trial Goes to Jury

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Tobacco Suit Trial Goes to Jury

10/25/2001
WHEELING, W.Va.

West Virginia smokers suing the tobacco industry for an unprecedented medical screening program have presented enough evidence to send the case to a jury, a judge ruled yesterday.

Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht ruled against a stack of dismissal motions, saying the recently completed plaintiff's case met the required legal standards for the case to proceed, according to Reuters.

The class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of some 250,000 West Virginians, seeks the creation of an industry-funded medical program that would provide free diagnostic tests for healthy smokers. The class members are people who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for at least five years, but who are not yet sick.

It is the first medical monitoring case of its kind to go to trial in the United States, forcing the tobacco companies to defend what is essentially a product liability claim, the report said.

The smokers say they were exposed to a hazardous substance proven to cause lung cancer, emphysema and chronic obstructive lung diseases. Cigarette makers concede their products are inherently risky but deny they are defective, the report said.

Eight motions filed with the judge argued that the smokers failed to prove key points of their case against R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson and Lorillard.