Blankenship

Christa J. Blankenship and Mae Sibo
v R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris, and Lorillard (Medical Monitoring Cases)

State Circuit Court of Ohio County, West Virginia (Case Number 97-C-204)
The Honorable Arthur M. Recht presiding

Filed 1997

Verdict for the Defendant

This was a West Virgia class action seeking medical monitoring for class members for diseases associated with smoking.

Plaintiff attorneys: Timothy N. Barber, Kenneth B. McClain and Scott B. Hall of Humphrey Farrington & McClain PC.
Defendant attorneys: W. Henry Jernigan Jr. of of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, David B. Thompson of Allen Guthrie McHugh & Thomas PLLC, Susan M. Robinson and Sarah A. Martin.

Timeline

  • 1997 – January 31: Case filed
  • 2000 – January 11: Class consolidated
  • 2001 – January 22: Mistrial declared
  • 2001 – September 1: Jury trial commences
  • 2001 – November 14: Jury returns directed verdict for Defendants
  • 2004 – May 6: Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (600 S.E.2d 188) affirms verdict
  • 2005 – December 2: Judge rules that verdict does not preclude the bifurcation of a mass trial
  • 2007 – November: West Virginia Supreme Court refuses to hear tobacco companies’ petition
  • 2008 – February 25: US Supreme Court rules against tobacco companies
  • 2011 – Trial: verdict for the Defendant
  • 2014 – Defendant verdict upheld by State Supreme Court

Narrative

This class action suit was filed in 1997 with the class 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.” This case was one of approximately 1200 tobacco litigation cases that were consolidated under the title of In Re Tobacco Litigation in 2000. The consolidated case was heard by Judge Recht, who declared a mistrial on January 22, 2001, after a witness made a “veiled and apparently inadvertent” reference to addiction.

“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.”

 

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