Jury selection begins in tobacco death lawsuit

WORCESTER — Jury selection began yesterday for the trial arising from a 2001 wrongful death lawsuit brought against tobacco company Philip Morris Inc. by a former Douglas woman whose husband died of lung cancer eleven years ago.

The Worcester Superior Court trial stemming from a civil suit filed by Brenda L. Haglund over the death of her 51-year-old husband, Stephen C. Haglund, is expected to continue for several weeks. Testimony is expected to begin next week.

The suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, alleges that when Mr. Haglund began smoking cigarettes in the 1970s, Philip Morris could have employed technology that extracted addictive nicotine from the tobacco in cigarettes.

Lawyers for Philip Morris have argued that the health risks of cigarette smoking are widely known, that technology to extract nicotine from tobacco does not totally remove the nicotine and that the company’s efforts to market a lower-nicotine cigarette were not successful.

In 2006, the state Supreme Judicial Court reinstated Ms. Haglund’s lawsuit, which had been dismissed earlier by a lower court judge. In reinstating the suit, the SJC ruled that a defense often relied upon by the tobacco industry in wrongful death cases could not be used by Philip Morris in the Haglund case.

Under the so-called “personal choice” defense, tobacco companies have sought to shield themselves from liability by arguing that smokers acted unreasonably by smoking when they knew cigarettes were dangerous.

Mr. Haglund, a truck driver for 14 years, lived on Eagle Drive in Douglas and had six children. His widow, the administrator of his estate, now lives in Florida.

By Gary V. Murray TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

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