Mistrial in tobacco lawsuit stuns attorney; retrial in March

Attorneys return to DeLand in March to argue that RJ Reynolds brought on a former cigarette smoker’s cancer.

The first trial ended in a deadlocked jury. The panel was supposed to determine whether Koballa was addicted to tobacco, but could not agree on a definition for addiction.

Attorney Dennis Pantazis was caught off guard by the mistrial.


“I was surprised,” said Pantazis. “We think the evidence is very, very strong.”

But he says the public has a negative perception of these kinds of cases.

“If you polled the people, people believe that cigarette smokers have caused this to themselves and therefore they shouldn’t bring any lawsuits against the manufacturers,” said Pantazis.

So why try this case? He says it’s about addiction and the fact that tobacco companies know their products have that quality.

He represents Stella Koballa of Daytona Beach who spent 43 years smoking until she learned she had cancer.

“Her cancer is cured for the most part,”said Pantazis. “She’s been cancer free for 14 years. She still suffers from emphysema, COPD. She’s on oxygen particularly at night.”

Koballa’s case is the first of hundreds expected in Florida against the tobacco industry after a class action lawsuit was dismantled by the state supreme court.

According to a post on tobacco.org, “The case became controversial because during the case, lawyers for R.J. Reynolds subpoenaed an unfinished manuscript about the history of the global tobacco industry written by Stanford history professor Robert Neal Proctor, who was tapped to serve as an expert witness for the plaintiff in the case. Proctor and lawyers for the plaintiff lawyers are contesting the subpoena, saying the attempt to reveal the unfinished manuscript is an effort to harass and intimidate Dr. Proctor, and ruin his credibility. They maintain that if the defense obtains the manuscript, it would have a chilling effect on other experts who may be asked to testify against the industry.”

source: wdbo.com

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