Floyd P. Roysdon and wife Ruth Ann Roysdon
v R.J. Reynolds

Circuit Court, Scott County TN

Filed 1984

Directed verdict for Defendant

Roysdon sought $5,000,000 actual and $50,000,000 punitive damages for himself and $250,000 actual and $50,000,000 punitive for his spouse.  The injury alleged was peripheral artherosclerotic vascular disease.

Plaintiff Attorneys: J. D. Lee, Ted Q. Wilson
Defendant attorneys: Hodges, Doughty & Carson; Robert R. Campbell, Dalton L. Townsend. Hutcheson, Moseley, Pinchak & Powers by Ray E. Moseley, Steve Powers. Paul G Crist.

Timeline

  • 1984 – July 5: Case filed
  • 1984 – August 15: Removed from Circuit Court, Scott County, TN
  • 1984 – September 16:  Pretrial motions granted

“R.J. Reynolds’ motion for summary judgment was granted and the Tobacco Institute’s motion to dismiss for failure to state fraud with particularity was also granted. The Order was stayed, though, and plaintiffs were given 20 days within which to amend the complaint. No amendment filed.”

  • 1985 – December 9: Trial, Knoxville, TN
  • 1985 – December 13: Directed verdict for R. J. Reynolds at close of plaintiffs’ case. The judge dismissed the action at the close of plaintiff’s case upon finding that he had failed to prove that cigarettes were “unreasonably dangerous”.
  • 1988 – June 14: US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, affirms judgment.

Narrative

“This individual personal injury suit was brought by Floyd F. and Ruth Ann Roysdon against R.J. Reynolds on July 5, 1984. The plaintiffs alleged that Floyd Roysdon’s use of Camel and Winston cigarettes caused his peripheral vascular disease and caused his left leg to be amputated below the knee.”

“He began smoking Camel cigarettes in 1946, and switched to Winston cigarettes in the 1960s. The plaintiffs asserted that cigarettes are addictive and that despite attempts to try and quit, Floyd was unable to do so. Mr. Roysdon had surgery on his foot in 1983. Because of his disease, the wound failed to heal and his leg had to be amputated below the knee. The plaintiff claimed strict tort liability for an unreasonably dangerous, defective product, and failure to warn.”

“The defendant asserted defenses of assumption of risk and common knowledge. It claimed the amputation occurred as a result of a thrombus or clot that occurred in a previous surgery to remove a boil from his foot and not as a result of peripheral vascular disease.”
“The case was filed in a Tennessee Circuit Court. The defendant removed the case based on diversity. It was heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Northern Division before the Honorable Thomas G. Hull. The judge limited the plaintiffs recovery to harm caused within the last ten years prior to suit (1974-84).”

“In an opinion explaining both judgments, he held that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act preempted state actions for failure to warn. To award damages on this claim would be to require more stringent labels. This is banned by the preemption clause in the Act. Common knowledge of the risks of smoking meant that cigarettes could not be found unreasonably dangerous.”

“The United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment [on June 14, 1988]. The court held that the Act preempted failure to warn claims. Cigarettes were not defective nor unreasonably dangerous. The ordinary consumer knows that cigarette use presents grave health risks. That does not make them defective.”

 

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