Hess v. Philip Morris

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The Hess V. R.J. Reynolds case went to trial in February of 2009. It was brought against cigarette maker Philip Morris by widow Elaine Hess on behalf of her deceased husband, Stuart. Mrs. Hess claimed that her husband's addiction to nicotine prevented him from being able to stop smoking. Mr. Hess died of lung cancer at age 55, in 1997.

An earlier case brought by Mrs. Hess ended in a mistrial after an expert witness, Stanford University history professor Robert Proctor, described to the jury how one can search the industry's use of specific terms or phrases in the secret documents. As an example, he referred to a research project he was conducting about the history of racism in the tobacco archives and gave the "N-word" as one example of a search term. Philip Morris claimed Proctor's use of this word had inflamed the jury, and sought and obtained a mistrial. [1]


The Hess case sprang out of a 1994 class action lawsuit brought by smoker Howard Engle, a Miami Beach doctor, who alleged tobacco companies conspired throughout the years to suppress information on the health dangers of smoking cigarettes. A Miami-Dade county jury awarded the class a record $145 billion in punitive damages. The case was appealed and the Florida Supreme Court tossed the award, ruling that smokers must prove individually that cigarettes caused their illness.

As a result of this decision, about 8,000 individual smokers around the state filed lawsuits, including 360 in Broward County. The Hess case is the first of that huge stream of cases to go to trial.[2][3][4][5]


On February 18, 2009, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, and ordered Philip Morris to pay a total of $8 million in damages to Elaine Hess and her son. Philip Morris vowed to appeal, as the case could set the tone for the outcome of the thousands of similar lawsuits waiting to be heard.[6]

Sourcewatch resources

External resources


  1. See April 27, 2009 email from Robert Proctor on "Discussion" page for this article
  2. Patrick Danner Tobacco lawsuit against Philip Morris going to trial again, Miami Herald, January 31, 2009
  3. Associated Presss Trial opens in Fla. widow's tobacco lawsuit, undated
  4. CBS4.com Opening Statements On Tap In Big Tobacco Trial, February 3, 2009, accessed February 3, 2009
  5. Richard Luscombe First of 8,000 antitobacco suits to go to trial in Florida Christian Science Monitor, January 29, 2009
  6. Michael Winter, USA Today Health/Science Jury says Philip Morris must pay $8M for smoker's death, February 18, 2009

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