The makers of two of the most popular brands of smokeless tobacco will pay $5 million to settle a wrongful death suit brought by the family of a Connecticut man who died of mouth cancer.
Experts believe it to be the first such settlement from a chewing-tobacco company and it could lead to similar lawsuits.
The family of Bobby Hill, who died in 2003 at the age of 42, will receive the settlement from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., which is owned by tobacco giant Altria.
Mark Gottlieb, director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University in Boston, said the settlement was the first case of its kind.
He told The Associated Press that it should be "a wakeup call" to plaintiffs' attorneys "that there are a lot of victims of smokeless-tobacco use out there."
So far, smokeless-tobacco companies have managed to stay clear of most lawsuits as attorneys have focused more on cigarette companies because of stronger evidence to back up their claims, Gottlieb added.
But the company told The AP that the Hill case was unique.
It involved circumstances that unfolded before Altria acquired U.S. Smokeless and "we have no intention of settling cases like this in the future," spokesman Steven Callahan said.
Hill, who had multiple surgeries to remove his tongue, had been using smokeless tobacco since he was 13.
His case was helped by previously undisclosed letters from the 1980s that U.S. Smokeless sent to minors thanking them for their business and offering free samples.
Attorneys at Ross Feller Casey, LLP have built a nationally recognized reputation for their impressive track record of victories in wrongful death cases:
• $36.4 million settlement against Motiva for an explosion caused by a corroded tank leaking hydrogen, which resulted in the death of a boilermaker. It was one of the largest single-victim wrongful death recoveries.
• $25 million verdict for the death of a physician as a result of medical negligence.
• $7 million settlement for the death of a woman during the delivery of her twin babies.
• $7 million recovery for a wrongful death caused by an auto defect.
• $5.5 million settlement for a woman who died as a result of the failure to diagnose cervical cancer.
• $4.5 million settlement for the family of a woman who died from medical negligence.
• $4.5 million settlement for the family of a little boy who died as a result of medical negligence.
• $3.75 million settlement for a man killed roadside.
• $2.75 million settlement for a man who died in an auto accident with a tractor trailer.
• $2.7 million settlement for the family of a woman who died after a hysterectomy.
• $2.5 million settlement for the family of a man who died after an ER physician failed to diagnose that he was having a stroke.
• $2.5 million settlement for the family of a woman who died after misdiagnosis of a heart condition.
• $2.5 million settlement for parents of a newborn who suffered fatal injuries at the time of delivery.
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