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Massachusetts Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceed with Case Against Cigarette Manufacturer

The adverse effects of smoking cigarettes are common knowledge. While currently cigarettes must be sold with warning labels, that was not always the case. As such, if someone began smoking decades ago and suffered harm as a result, he or she may be able to pursue claims against cigarette manufacturers on various theories of liability.

Notably, Massachusetts is a jurisdiction that allows such claims, as shown in a recent case in which the Superior Court of Massachusetts ruled that a plaintiff could proceed with its product liability claims against a cigarette manufacturer, denying the defendant manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a dangerous product, you should meet with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your options for pursuing compensation.

Plaintiff’s Decedent’s History of Smoking

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s mother began smoking the defendant’s cigarettes in 1963 when she was 13 years old after she was given free cigarettes by one of the defendant’s representatives. She became addicted to cigarettes and smoked two packs per day for decades. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and ultimately succumbed to the disease. She smoked until her death. After the decedent’s death, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant, alleging negligence, breach of warranty, conspiracy, and violation of G.L.c. 93A. The defendant filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which the court denied.

Massachusetts Law Regarding Claims Against Cigarette Manufacturers

In its opinion, the court cited another Massachusetts case arising under similar circumstances, that established certain principles of law regarding claims against cigarette manufacturers. Regarding the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant was liable for breach of warranty due to a defective design, the court rejected the reasoning that a safer cigarette would not have sufficient nicotine to satisfy an addicted smoker. Rather, the court noted that the safety of the product in question and whether reasonable alternative designs that were safer existed should be evaluated from the perspective of a person who is not yet addicted to cigarettes and does not need sufficient nicotine to satisfy an addiction. As to the negligence claim, the court noted that a jury could find that a marketing campaign that targeted minors could be evidence of negligence, but the plaintiff must prove that the negligence caused the harm in question.

In analyzing the c. 93A claim, the court stated that under Massachusetts law, only acts occurring after 1979 could form the basis of a violation of c. 93A claim. Here the plaintiff alleged that the decedent became addicted in 1963, but the defendant denied the decedent’s addiction. As such, the court held that an issue of fact existed as to whether any wrongful conduct of the defendant was the cause of the injury claimed under the c. 93A claim. Lastly, the defendant argued it could not be liable for conspiracy, because the allegedly concerted conduct occurred after the decedent was addicted. The court denied the motion to dismiss the conspiracy claim for the same reason it declined to dismiss the c. 93A claim, namely that the defendant denied the decedent’s addiction.

Meet with a Seasoned Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered harm due to a dangerous or defective product, you may be able to recover damages from the manufacturer of the product and should meet with a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the facts of your case. The personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will work diligently to assist you in asserting strong arguments in favor of your recovery. We can be contacted at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to schedule a confidential and free conference.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decision Establishes When a Patient Can File Suit Against a Brand-Name Manufacturer of Prescription Drugs, March 28, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog