Smokers and their families have been suing tobacco companies since the 1950’s. Initially, these lawsuits were mostly unsuccessful. Early on, tobacco companies were able to argue that smoking did not cause many of the illnesses we now associate with tobacco use.
However, as science improved, several illnesses started to be linked with smoking. As a result, the tobacco companies changed their legal defense. Rather than denying a link between their product and severe illnesses, the argument became that since smoking is a personal choice, the companies should not be liable for any resulting injuries.
A New Approach to Tobacco Litigation
To this point, cigarette manufacturers had been largely successful defending against the following claims:
However, soon their defenses started to lose effectiveness. By the 1990s, people filing suit were able to produce documents demonstrating the harmful, addictive nature of cigarettes. More importantly, the information in these documents all but proved that tobacco companies were long aware of, and worked to enhance, the addictive qualities of their products.
This information prompted more individuals and several state governments to file lawsuits against cigarette and tobacco companies. In 1998, 46 states agreed to a settlement in which the tobacco companies agreed to pay about $250 billion over 25 years. This settlement does not include the amount of damages awarded based on the lawsuits filed by individuals.
Seeking Legal Advice
The harmful effects of cigarettes can last a life time, or even potentially and tragically end a life too soon. Now, cigarette companies have added clear warnings to cigarettes and new filtration techniques in efforts to reduce health risks and lower their legal liability. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury and you believe cigarettes played a role, you should consider seeking the advice of a personal injury lawyer who has experience with tobacco litigation or toxic torts.