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Connecticut Smoker gets $8 Million Jury Verdict

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports that Barbara Izzarelli has obtained an $8 million jury verdict against RJ Reynolds, whose cigarettes she smoked for more than 20 years.

Izzarelli was in her early teens in the 1970s when she began smoking Salems. She smoked heavily every day -- all day -- for more than 20 years. Then in 1996, at age 36, she developed larynx cancer. The following year she underwent a total laryngectomy, followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She can no longer breathe through her mouth or nose; she uses a tube in her throat. Her diet consists of soft foods like pudding and mashed potatoes.

Her suit charged RJ Reynolds with deliberately marketing attractive flip-top boxes to teens. Reynolds contested both the youth marketing claim and the causal link between Izzarelli's smoking and the kind of cancer from which she suffers. [Presumably Reynolds also alleged that, once an adult, Izzarelli smoked voluntarily -- but the news report doesn't mention this...] The Connecticut jury must have agreed with that defense, as it applied that state's comparative negligence rule and found Izzarelli 42% at fault. The court deducted that percentage from the jury's $13 million damage calculation.

I have written at length about the Florida suits against Big Tobacco, but this suit is apparently the first successful product liability lawsuit in Connecticut by an individual plaintiff against a tobacco company. It was filed in 1999, shortly after the release of volumes of information following the settlement of the suit against Big Tobacco by the states' attorneys general. That information provided the fodder for Izzarelli's "youth marketing" claim. This verdict indicates that the Nutmeg state is fertile ground for other suits filed by residents who started smoking as teens.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.