Cipollone vs. Ligget Group, Inc.

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What makes a cigarette?                                               The brand.

As Merchants of Doubt shows in such depth, the tobacco companies have been masterfully obfuscating the facts of inhaling tobacco since the 1940’s. Using carefully structured advertising strategies, scapegoats, and outright lies, tobacco companies muddled up a clearly observable scientific truth for decades. The lies, misdirection, and withholding of information has not gone on without causing several momentous court battles, however.

In light of similar obfuscation surrounding the environmental issues we face today, I thought it would be nice and inspiring to show that, as in one of these cases, it is possible for the truth to come out.

It’s hard to really impact the large and villainous corporations of the world with small legal action, though many of the problems we face (such as climate change, the damage of fracking, the stupidity of privatization of water) could all still be greatly helped by the unequivocal confirmations of the truths. And it seems something as small as a personal lawsuit can cause that.

Just look at what Rose Cipollone caused to come about:

Cipollone vs. Liggett Group Inc.

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This is Rose Cipollone, and she started smoking at age 16. At age 58, Rose died from lung cancer. She stirred up some controversy on her way out however, suing several cigarette manufacturers for failing to sufficiently warn the public about the fatal effects smoking can have.

According to the American Museum of Tort Law:

“In 1988, a jury in New Jersey awarded Cipollone’s husband $400,000. The jurors found that, before 1966, the company had failed to warn of the health risks of smoking its products. (After 1966, cigarette packages included a federally required health warning that smoking cigarettes may be hazardous to health, and the court in Cipollone made a pre-trial ruling that the warning labels placed on cigarettes in 1966 prevented common law claims for injuries related to smoking after that date.) The jury also found that the company’s cigarette advertisements constituted an express warranty that its cigarettes were safe, and the company had breached that warranty.

Although the verdict was reversed on appeal in 1992 (the appellate court held that that certain federal laws governed in place of state laws), the case was important because, although smokers had attempted to hold tobacco companies liable for their smoking-related injuries for more than 30 years, this was the first time a smoker had won a trial. Also, this was the first case in which internal tobacco company documents were produced to show that tobacco companies knew of the dangers of cigarettes well before the Surgeon General warned the public in 1964—and that tobacco companies had conspired to conceal these documents, and keep the public from learning about the health hazards of smoking.”

Alas, the verdict did not last, as an appellate court later repealed and the verdict was overturned. The Cipollone case did one very important thing: it forced the companies at fault to prove they knew the damage they were doing but chose the economic route (fracking).

An important takeaway: don’t smoke.

An even more important takeaway: trying to call the bullshit we see can have grand effects. Like maybe we could put Nestle out of business. Those bastards.

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