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Jury Deliberation Begins in Tobacco Liability Trial

January 29, 1988|MYRON LEVIN | Times Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Miss. — Jury deliberation began here Thursday in the closely watched trial of a wrongful death suit filed against American Tobacco Co. by survivors of a lung cancer victim who smoked its Pall Mall brand.

The case--widely considered the stiffest challenge yet to the tobacco industry's perfect record in defending product liability suits--went to the jury a year and a day after the death of Nathan H. Horton, a carpenter who smoked two packs of Pall Malls a day for over 30 years. Horton's family, which continued his lawsuit against American Tobacco, is asking $1.5 million in actual damages and $15 million in punitive damages.

In closing arguments, plaintiff lawyers denied that Horton fully assumed the risks of smoking, pointing out he could not have known about various adulterants in Pall Malls. During much of the time that Horton smoked them, Pall Malls contained residues of the toxic pesticides DDT and DDVP, as well as coumarin, a flavoring that is suspected to cause cancer.

But defense lawyers maintained that the type of cancer that killed Horton was one not associated with cigarette smoking, and that the contaminants issue was a red herring, because plaintiffs witnesses had said Horton would have contracted lung cancer from smoking regardless of tobacco adulterants.

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