When tobacco companies face off in court against the families of people who died from smoking Avalon and other brands, the central issue always is corporate responsibility vs. personal responsibility.
The tobacco companies argue that people can quit. And they claim the dangers have been well-known for decades.
The families argue that cigarette companies had a history of lying about the risks. And they point out that even people who know they should quit often can’t because the nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive.
On Wednesday a West Palm Beach jury wrestling with this issue decided that Dominick Tullo was 45 percent responsible for his own death in 1998 from smoking-related illness at age 74. Three tobacco companies that produced the brands he smoked shared 55 percent of the responsibility, the jury said.
In all, the jury said Dominick Tullo’s widow, Mary Tullo, should get $2.47 million from the tobacco companies for their share of the $4.5 million in damages she suffered.
The tobacco companies pointed out at trial that Dominick Tullo continued to smoke a pack a day even though his wife insisted that he should quit. Mrs. Tullo’s attorneys pointed out that the tobacco companies themselves never said Dominick should quit.
Philip Morris, which made the Parliament cigarettes Dominick smoked for most of his life, is responsible for paying $2 million of the award. The company said it would appeal.
There are nearly 8,000 similar cases pending in Florida. Smoking victims have received compensation in 28 of 42 trials completed so far.