No Second Round in Fatal Smoking Case
ST. LOUIS (CN) - The family of a man who died of throat cancer cannot file a second lawsuit against cigarette makers, after collecting $1 million from a previous lawsuit, the 8th Circuit ruled.
Michael Thompson died in 2009. He smoked cigarettes for almost 30 years, and was diagnosed with cancer in 1997.
Thompson and his wife, Christi, sued R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA, MFA Petroleum and Barber & Sons Co. They claimed that Michael's cancer was caused by the defendants' negligence, product defect and failure to warn.
A state court jury awarded the Thompsons $1,046,754 in 2003.
After Michael died, Christi and their children filed a second lawsuit against the same defendants in 2012.
A federal court dismissed the second lawsuit, finding that Missouri law prohibited the Thompsons from bringing a wrongful death claim against the tobacco companies when Michael had litigated his personal injury claims arising from the same conduct during his lifetime.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit affirmed the dismissal on July 30.
"(T)he Thompsons themselves pleaded the existence of the earlier judgment when they asserted in this case a claim of offensive nonmutual collateral estoppel on the basis of the 2003 state judgment for Michael and Christi Thompson," Judge Diana E. Murphy wrote. "The district court properly took notice of that previous judgment. And it correctly determined that under the 'one recovery' rule of § 537.080, Michael Thompson no longer had a viable claim against these defendants when he died."
Judge James B. Loken concurred. Judge Jane Kelly heard oral argument but did not participate in the decision because of her recusal on May 13.