Smoker Fails to Prove Tobacco Cancer Claim | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Smoker Fails to Prove Tobacco Cancer Claim

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (CN) - A man who smoked for 50 years failed to prove RJ Reynolds and other tobacco giants got him hooked on cigarettes that gave him cancer, a federal judge ruled.

Florida resident Daniel Echols started smoking in 1960, at the age of 9. Despite various attempts to quit, Echols smoked 20-30 cigarettes a day for 50 years, until serious health problems forced him to stop in 2010, according to his federal complaint.

Echols alleged that RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris U.S.A. and Lorillard Tobacco Co., whose cigarettes he smoked over the years, used deceptive advertising that minimized the risks of their nicotine-containing products, including their addictive power and their ability to cause serious illness and death.

The tobacco companies "continued to promote smoking despite knowing the dangers associated with it as early as the mid-1950s," and advertised low-tar and filter cigarettes as "healthy" alternatives to keep people hooked on smoking, Echols, who suffers from bladder cancer, claimed in the complaint.

U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg found Echols' allegations insufficiently clear to support his various claims against the tobacco companies, including claims for strict liability, negligence, fraud and unfair trade practices.

Although Echols said he smoked several cigarette brands manufactured by the defendants, he failed to clarify the smoking period for each brand, and whether he smoked them successively or alternated between them at times, according to the Oct. 15 ruling.

Echols does not have to provide specific dates for each brand he allegedly smoked, but the complaint should reconcile contradictory statements to show accurate year ranges for each brand, the order said.

The plaintiff's failure to allege specific years during which he smoked each brand undermines his claims of injury caused by each of the three companies' products, Rosenberg concluded.

Echols' fraud claims must also be dismissed due to his failure to show a connection between defendants' allegedly deceptive conduct and statements and his purchase of their products, according to the ruling.

The court dismissed Echols' state-law claim for unfair trade practices with prejudice, noting that the Florida statute does not apply to personal injury claims.

Additionally, Echols' wife cannot pursue a loss of consortium claim, which is derivative of the underlying claims dismissed by the court.

Rosenberg said Echols may file an amended complaint by Oct. 27 to clarify his allegations.

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