Man awarded $1.9 million for wife's lung cancer death


She smoked two packs of Marlboros a day every day from age 16 to her death in her 70s, from lung cancer, natch.

So was Shirley Barbanell or Philip Morris USA responsible for her habit... and the eventual grief of her husband, Leon Barbanell? A jury of six deliberated in Florida for about a day and delivered the culpability in percentages and dollar figures. Philip Morris is 36.5% to blame; Shirley retains 63.5% of the fault. But as for Leon, he's above reproach for his wife's self-destructive oral fixation.

It's a good thing Shirley's now passed away, because her husband's grief has been valued at $5.3 million, and if I'm doing my math right, that makes her $3.365 million responsible. But perhaps we don't do things that way in the U.S.; the financial responsibility is only picked up by the company that makes the aptly-nicknamed "cancer sticks." So Phillip Morris has been ordered to pay $1.9 million in punitive damages because of a "design defect" and breach of warranty.

Unsurprisingly, Phillip Morris is appealing. It's part of the legal curiosity known as "Engle progeny," in which a class action case was "de-certified" (in other words, smokers and their families could now file cases as individuals) and some of the facts from the lawsuit filed by Miami Beach pediatrician Howard A. Engle regarding the link between smoking and disease could be applied to so-called progeny cases.

While the Engle progeny makes for an easier win for the families of smokers, it also makes for a number of reasons for appeal. And if anything is a sure thing (other than that smokers will eventually die, and something about taxes...) it is that tobacco companies will take any chance at appeal.