Five years after Tony Gwynn’s death at 54, following a battle with cancer of the salivary gland, a lawsuit filed by the Gwynn family will finally head to trial on Sept. 20, 2019. In 2016, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against the tobacco giant Altria Group, Inc., formerly Philip Morris, among others. The lawsuit claimed that the condition that triggered Gwynn’s death was related to his 31 years of smokeless tobacco usage.
The Gwynn family’s attorney stated that their case was predicated on the tobacco industry’s responsibility to disclose the risk associated with the use of “dip.”
The trial date being scheduled so far in advance was made at their attorney’s behest, as they requested the court designate their case as “complex,” which is defined as a civil action that requires continuous judicial management to avoid unnecessary burdens on the court or financial burden on litigants. Tobacco companies are notoriously some of the most ruthless defendants and as branches on a $35 billion dollar industry have the wherewithal to make things difficult for plaintiffs.
Via USA Today:
“The tobacco companies are indeed infamous for their scorched-earth litigation tactics,” said Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University and tobacco industry critic who is not involved in the case. “This is, indeed, a huge list. They are certainly within their rights in getting medical records from his treating physicians related to his cancer, but that couldn’t possibly justify these subpoenas to all these individuals and entities. They could also fairly explore alternative causes, but only circumstances that have been scientifically demonstrated to relate to the type of cancer he had and died from.”
The breadth of the tobacco industry’s defense capabilities is so vast that in its defense, the company has subpoenaed 60 entities, including oral health providers and San Diego County hospitals.
While chewing tobacco was widely used in the majors, its use has dwindled amid a greater focus on its deadly side effects and the current collective bargaining agreement includes a ban on the product by new players.
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