The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has upheld a jury verdict against Philip Morris USA, Inc., maker of Marlboro cigarettes, for civil conspiracy. The lawsuit was filed by Patricia Walshe Greene, a life-long smoker who has developed lung cancer.
After losing at trial, the cigarette manufacturer filed an appeal for a new trial. The SJC declined to order a new trial, and affirmed the jury’s finding. When discussing the issue of civil conspiracy, the SJC wrote,
For decades, the cigarette companies continued to publicly deny that smoking caused cancer or was addictive, even as their internal documents showed otherwise. The record is rich with examples, with a representative sample here focusing on Philip Morris: In 1955, Philip Morris’s research head said on a news program that there was “[nothing in smoke] that give[s] us any cause for concern.” In response to a critical 1964 report by the Surgeon General, a Philip Morris director told CBS News that the industry denied that there were “any bad elements” in cigarette smoke. In a 1976 interview, a Philip Morris executive denied that any research existed that could prove that its products caused cancer, implored viewers to “read both sides” of the issue, and promised that “if the company, as a whole, believed cigarettes were really harmful, we would not be in the business.” In 1994, Philip Morris’s president testified before Congress that there was no proof that smoking was addictive or caused cancer. As Dr. Cummings [the plaintiff/smoker’s expert] summarized, Philip Morris and its fellow cigarette manufacturers spent billions of dollars to execute a pervasive and long-lasting public relations campaign “to hide the truth about what they knew about the dangers of their cigarettes.” This campaign lasted through Greene’s childhood and the entire period that she smoked.
To read the full opinion, click the document below.