Asbestos Filter Suit Wins California Man $1.36 Million

Don Lenney was awarded nearly $1.4 million by a San Francisco jury after he developed mesothelioma as a result of smoking asbestos-tainted cigarettes in the 1950s, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.  The Kent brand cigarettes, manufactured by Lorillard Tobacco Co., contained asbestos in their filters between 1952 and 1956, the article explains. According to the report, Lenney claims to have smoked Kent cigarettes from 1953 to 1965, a time when Lorillard admits that it used Micronite filters that contained asbestos.  However, lawyers for the company maintain that the filters did not contain enough of the mineral to be harmful, says the Chronicle.  The jury sided with Lenney, the article reports, placing 35% of the fault on Lorillard, 25% on the company that manufactured the filters themselves, and the rest on other asbestos companies. Ironically, the filters were originally added to the cigarettes as a protective measure, says the Chronicle, intended to remove tar and nicotine from the smoke.  The article quotes Kent’s ads from the 1950s, which touted their Micronite filters as “the greatest health protection in cigarette history.”  Asbestos, a fibrous, heat-resistant mineral, was likely added to ensure that the filters would not catch fire.  However, its inclusion in cigarette filters would prove particularly catastrophic, since asbestos is hazardous when inhaled.  Asbestos fibers in the lungs and other body tissues can cause cancers including mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and other organs. The cancer has a long latency period, anywhere from 20 to 50 years, so many who smoked Kent cigarettes during the years when they contained asbestos are only recently realizing the ill effects it has had on their health.  Lenney was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November of 2009, the Chronicle states, and had to have a lung removed last year.  Sadly, the mesothelioma life expectancy is very low because standard cancer treatments are rarely effective by the time it is diagnosed. Though the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, says the article, it did not find the Lorillard Tobacco Co. to be negligent.  The Chronicle reports that Lorillard has won 15 out of 20 asbestos-related trials throughout the nation, and Randall Haimovici, the company’s lawyer, intends to appeal, saying “we didn’t do anything wrong by using asbestos in filters back in the 1950s.” Reference: Egelko, Bob. (March 11, 2010). “Ex-smoker wins $1.4 million in asbestos-filter suit.” Retrieved March 28, 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle. Previous: Five Types of Mesothelioma and Their Causes Next: Five Types of Mesothelioma: Peritoneal Mesothelioma