Cigarette Mistrial Boiled Down to Smokers v. Nonsmokers on Jury


Smokers in the jury stood apart from the non-smoking colleagues.
  • Smokers in the jury stood apart from the non-smoking colleagues.
A lawsuit that finally went to trial last month after wending its way though court for 11 years ended yesterday in a mistrial when the jury failed to deliver a verdict.

The class-action lawsuit accused tobacco giant Phillip Morris of deceiving customers in the marketing of its Marlboro Light cigarettes as a healthy alternative to its full-bodied Marlboro cigarettes. According to the plaintiffs, Phillip Morris knew that Marlboro Lights could be just as dangerous as regular cigarettes because smokers inhaled longer or more deeply to compensate for the lower nicotine.

The trial went on for a month before the jury began deliberations last week. The St. Louis daily and TV stations have all reported the basics of those deliberations with the jury deadlocked 8 to 4 in favor of the plaintiffs. In civil trials, 9 of the 12 jurors must side with a party for a legal victory.

But it's Missouri Lawyers Media that provides the most intriguing details from inside the jury. As Mo Lawyers reports, three of the four smokers on the jury sided with the plaintiffs believing that Phillip Morris had -- in fact -- deceived the public.

Non-smokers on the jury, however, voiced concerns that awarding the plaintiffs their request for at least $696 million in damages would -- in effect -- reward people for smoking. Ultimately the jury sent the judge a note, asking if they'd be bound to reward the amount the plaintiffs desired.

The plaintiff's attorney, Stephen Swedlow, said yesterday that he would ask for a new trial. The class-action suit covers any Missouri resident who bought and consumed Marlboro Lights from early 1995 to the end of 2002.

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