Blankenship [Medical Monitoring Cases] v. Philip Morris Inc.(Class Action WV Sup. Ct. 1997 Def. Verdict) Citation: 600 S.E.2d 188 (6 May 2004)
This class action suit was filed by representative plaintiffs Christa J. Blankenship and Mae Sibo against R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris, and Lorillard on January 31, 1997. The case name was subsequently changed to In Re: Tobacco Litigation (Medical Monitoring Cases).
The class was defined as West Virginia residents not previously diagnosed with lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that have at least a five-pack-year history of smoking. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants' cigarettes were defective in that they increased their risk of contracting a number of diseases through exposure to tobacco smoke. The plaintiffs sought damages in the form of medical monitoring for lung cancer and COPD.
All tobacco litigation cases in the state (approximately 1,200 cases) were consolidated on January 11, 2000 under the title In Re Tobacco Litigation. The consolidated case was heard in the State Circuit Court of Ohio County, West Virginia (Case Number 97-C-204), before the Honorable Arthur M. Recht. The judge bifurcated the trial into several phases. The first part dealt with whether the class as a whole was entitled to medical monitoring and whether the defendants' behavior was wanton or willful. Following a mistrial, declared January 22, 2001, a jury trial on these issues ran from September 1, 2001 to November 14, 2001. At the close of evidence, the judge granted a directed verdict to the plaintiffs on the issues of significant exposure to a proven hazardous substance. A verdict was returned for the defense on November 14, 2001, finding that the defendants had not engaged in any tortious conduct, that the plaintiffs failed to show the necessity for medical monitoring, and that the defendants had not acted willfully or wantonly. The plaintiff appealed.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (600 S.E.2d 188) affirmed the verdict on May 6, 2004. The court held that there was no appeal as to the jury verdict on the defendants' tortious conduct, only the evidence permitted that resulted in it. The evidence supported a finding that the defendants' cigarettes did not make it reasonably necessary for smokers to have periodic medical examinations beyond what is normally prescribed, since all of the evidence on this issue was controverted by the defendants. The jury did not require an instruction that factors such as the cost and frequency of testing should not be given significant weight, since these issues were not main points in the trial. No further appeals were sought.
SynonymsBlankenship v. Philip Morris Inc
Blankenship [Medical Monitoring