One of the world’s largest tobacco companies and a global filter maker have been ordered to pay the estate of a Florida man more than $3.5 million. The tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds, manufactures four of America’s 10 highest-selling cigarette brands including Camel, Winston, Doral and Salem. The company now owns Lorillard Tobacco Company (acquired in 2014), which used an “exclusive micronite filter” in its Kent brand cigarettes from 1952 to 1956. It is this filter that is believed to be a contributing factor in the development of the Florida man’s mesothelioma.
Ads for the popular cigarette touted it as “the safest smokes on the market” thanks to the special micronite filter which the company said, “removed seven times more nicotine and tars than any other leading cigarette filter.” What the ads neglected to mention is that micronite is crocidolite asbestos. Also called blue asbestos, crocidolite asbestos is considered one of the more dangerous asbestos minerals.
The order to pay the Florida man’s estate reaffirms a previous jury verdict ordering Lorillard and global filter maker Hollingsworth & Vose (H&V) to pay $1.76 million each to the Florida man’s estate. According to a report by Bloomberg BNA, this amounts to 44% of the total $8 million awarded to the plaintiff.
This isn’t the only case RJR must face as the new owner of Lorillard. More than 60 years after Lorillard stopped using asbestos filters, nearly 30 cases involving the company’s exclusive micronite filters are scheduled to go to trial. Last year, more than 30 cases were scheduled.
Before it was acquired by RJR, Lorillard had already fought, without success, a number of cases involving their asbestos filters. According to Bloomberg BNA, a California appeals court upheld a $1.3 million compensatory verdict and a $700,000 punitive award against Lorillard and H&V back in 1997. “That award went to a clinical psychologist who a jury found switched to Kents because he thought the filters were safer than what he had smoked. He died in 1996 of mesothelioma. And, in 2011, a San Francisco jury awarded nearly $1.4 million to another former Kent smoker.”
In 2018, a Pennsylvania appeals court ordered Lorillard to comply with a Philadelphia-area judge’s order to produce a list of suits it compiled in 2011. “That list is to include not only Kent smokers who used the micronite filters, but also another category of plaintiffs—the workers at the plants that once produced the asbestos filters.”
“Whatever that list reveals,” reports Bloomberg BNA, “it’s unlikely the number of cases headed to trial will go up much in the years ahead because the number of people still alive who smoked with the filters, and worked with them, is dwindling, attorneys who have litigated the suits say.”
If you have been exposed to asbestos, make an appointment to dee your doctor today. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who can set up a monitoring plan that can help detect mesothelioma sooner. Early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes, so contact your doctor today.
Hayes, Peter. "R.J. Reynolds Haunted by Deadly Legacy of Kent Asbestos Filters." Bloomberg BNA. The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., 20 Oct. 2018. Web 21 Dec. 2018.
"R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company." SourceWatch.org. SourceWatch, 12 Oct. 2017. Web 21 Dec. 2018.