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Lawyer Busts Big Tobacco's Stronghold

Big Tobacco has the financial backing to make things extremely difficult for those likely to sue them. Though cigarettes notoriously are the cause of cancer and early death in smokers, getting the company to cough up is quite a plight. Scott Schlesinger might mark the tipping point where Big Tobacco starts to fall.

The attorney won a case in Florida in which R.J. Reynolds is expected to pay his clients $37.5 million for the death of smoker Laura Grossman, who died from lung cancer at 38. Despite this and other wins, few winners against tobacco have in fact collected anything.
"There is no other litigant in the world like tobacco," said Schlesinger. "There is no resolution short of trial. And a case doesn't terminate until every single appellate opportunity is exhausted."

After all, Big Tobacco can afford it. But a tipping point took place when a class action, the Engle class action, rejected a case representing 700,00 Florida smokers, but established res judicata the jury's findings that cigarettes indeed cause cancer, that nicotine is addictive, and manufacturers sold a dangerous product.

"We have established a beachhead in Florida," said Schlesinger. "If they continue to allow us to practice trying these cases, and we get better and better, we're going to win cases in other states."

Though few have collected any money yet, 23 of 44 trials of the Engle progeny cases so far have won against Tobacco.

Though their pockets are deep, and their legal finagling is extreme, it might be the beginning of the end for Big Tobacco.


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