Widow sues cigarettes maker Benson & Hedges; to go for trial

Window of the Cooper City smoker had filed a lawsuit against the Benson & Hedges cigarettes after her husband died of lung cancer. Her lawsuit is one of the some 8,000 tobacco cases in Florida to head to trial.

The lawsuit by Elaine Hess, a nonsmoker, is the first to be heard of 8,000 filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court two years ago threw out a $145 billion award in a massive class-action lawsuit against tobacco firms over smoking-related illnesses. Individual smokers had until January to sue cigarette makers.

The cases stem from a 1994 class-action lawsuit brought by smoker Howard Engle, a Miami Beach physician. He alleged tobacco firms intentionally addicted smokers and conspired to suppress information on smoking’s dangers.The $145 billion in punitive damages was the largest civil award in U.S. history. When the Florida Supreme Court later overturned the award, it ruled that smokers must prove individually that cigarettes caused their illnesses.

Lawyers for Stuart Hess say Hess tried to quit. He tried Nicorette gum. He tried hypnosis. Tried going cold turkey. But he couldn’t do it. Lawyers for Philip Morris, maker of the Benson & Hedges cigarettes that Hess preferred, say the locksmith was not addicted and could have stopped smoking at any time.

Whether or not Hess was addicted to cigarettes will be the key question as the lawsuit filed by Hess’ widow Elaine against Philip Morris was to begin Monday however flooding in Broward’s main courthouse lead to a postponement.

If they succeed, jurors will then determine the amount of damages to award Hess to compensate her for her losses. Jurors can assign fault for Stuart Hess’ death, including to him.Finally, jurors will decide whether to award additional damages to punish Philip Morris. Hess’ suit doesn’t specify the amount she seeks.

Source: Front Page


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