Norwood S. Wilner

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

Norwood S. Wilner (Known as "Woody") is a public spirited attorney with Spohrer, Wilner, Maxwell, Maciejewski & Stanfo in Miami, Florida. He became internationally famous for his successful campaign against the tobacco industry winning the ground-breaking case, Carter v. Brown & Williamson. It resulted in a victory for a lung cancer victim, and the judge agreed that industry documents showed fraud and concealment. This was seen by the jury as reprehensible; they found the industry guilty of conspiracy and awarded punitive (in addition to normal) damages.

Grady Carter, a 66 year old retired air-traffic controller, had started smoking Lucky Strikes in 1947 and switched to other brands in 1972. This was almost 20 years before warning labels were placed on cigarette packets. His cancer was diagnosed in 1991, and was in remission 5 years later when the court battle began.

He admitted in the witness box that he was responsible for his own condition - but his lawyer Wilner also pointed out that American Tobacco (which was acquired by Brown & Williamson in 1995) also shared responsibility because of his addiction. The most important factor in the verdict was the jury's reaction to several hundreds of pages of B&W documents, one of which was Addison Yeaman's (B&W executive) famous comment on the addictive quality of nicotine. This was the first jury to see damming documents from the tobacco industry files, and they found that the company made an unreasonably dangerous product and was negligent in concealing from the public the health effects of their product.

Eventually the jury split the $1.5 million in damages requested in half on the basis of Carter's shared responsibility. Wilner had not sought punitive damages.This was the first verdict against the tobacco industry to be affirmed on appeal. It ended up involving both the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.

Wilner wasn't shy about appearing in and on the media, where he took the line that it was time to stop blaming the victims of tobacco and other diseases and to focus instead on the underlying causes - the giant corporations and wealthy industries who put profits ahead of their customer's health and safety.

Wilner was a poly-math, who had graduated with honors from Yale University and the University of Florida, with a Masters in Engineering and Juris Doctor law degree. He also co-wrote a textbook, Asbestos Medicine on Trial.

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