Defense Verdict in Oliva Tobacco Trial

In his closing argument, Adam Trop reminded the jury that Allen Oliva was a pack-a-day smoker for 35 years, so there was little question that he was addicted to smoking. The addiction had to be a legal cause of Mr. Oliva’s COPD, said Mr. Trop. “Nobody smokes that much without being addicted, and nobody gets the disease without smoking that much. It’s really common sense.”

For R.J. Reynolds, Jones Day’s Mark Belasic told the jury, “Wednesday afternoon, when I got to cross-examine [Mr. Oliva], he put this case in a nutshell. First, he was a willing smoker. In his own words, he said that he flat-out absolutely enjoyed smoking. He enjoyed smoking for the thirty years he smoked. From the first time he quit, in the middle of the sixties, until he finally quit for good in 1997. He said he didn’t smoke because of advertisements…and we also saw Mr. Oliva on cross-examination say that he did not rely on any statements — that the statements of the tobacco companies did not play a role in his smoking.”

For Phillip Morris, Shook Hardy Bacon’s Bill Geraghty told the jury, “Nothing Philip Morris or R.J. Reynolds said — or didn’t say — about the health risks of smoking impacted Mr. Oliva’s decisions, his choices in life…We know that because we know how he lived his life.”

In his closing rebuttal, flipped Mr. Belasic’s themes of choice, control, “Choice. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds made the choices. In order to make choices, you have to have facts. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds had all the facts. They made the choices. Control. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds — they had complete control. They had the knowledge, they had the nicotine. They had the control. Cause. Their deceipt, their absence of morality, and their addiction to money is the cause in this case.”

The jury found that Mr. Oliva was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, but the addiction was not a legal cause of Mr. Oliva’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


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