SAN FRANCISCO, CA — May 8, 2000 — A jury awarded $1,048,100 to two children of a woman who contracted and died from malignant abdominal mesothelioma caused by her exposure to asbestos during the period 1953–1956 when she smoked Kent Micronite asbestos filtered cigarettes. The plaintiffs were Donna Traverso and Paul Bucedi. The defendant was Lorillard Tobacco Company, manufacturer of micronite asbestos filtered cigarettes between 1952–1956.
The trial began on April 17, 2000, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge John E. Munter. A jury was impaneled to hear the case and heard testimony. Closing arguments were presented May 3, 2000. The jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict. During the trial, testimony concerning the decedent's smoking of Kent Micronite asbestos filtered cigarettes, medical diagnosis, epidemiology, historical knowledge of the danger of asbestos, cell biology and pathology was presented.
Decedent Daisy Bucedi (nee Daisy Hammer) was born on June 21, 1919 in San Francisco, CA. Ms. Bucedi attended Mission High School and graduated in 1937. She met her husband, John Bucedi, also of San Francisco, in 1941 and they were married in 1942. Ms. Bucedi gave birth to her daughter, Donna, in 1945 and her son, Paul, in 1950. The family resided initially in the inner Richmond District until 1953 when they moved to Francisco Street in the North Beach District.
Donna attended St. Peters and Paul Elementary School and later graduated from Star of the Sea High School. Paul attended St. Peters and Paul Elementary School and high school at Sacred Heart.
Daisy Bucedi smoked cigarettes from 1937 to 1997. Ms. Bucedi smoked approximately one pack of cigarettes per day during this period of time. From 1937 to 1952, she smoked Sensation and/or Chesterfield brand cigarettes and from the fall of 1953 to 1979 she smoked Kent brand cigarettes.
Daisy Bucedi was diagnosed with malignant abdominal mesothelioma in July 1996 and succumbed to that disease on December 29, 1997.
Evidence at trial demonstrated that defendant Lorillard Tobacco Company knew or should have known of the dangers associated with asbestos before 1952 when it first made and sold Kent Micronite asbestos filtered cigarettes. Thereafter, despite such knowledge, Lorillard Tobacco Company (by and through its predecessor P. Lorillard Tobacco Company) continued to manufacture, market and sell Kent Micronite asbestos filtered cigarettes until at least May of 1956, when a new filter media was substituted. Throughout this period Lorillard never advised or warned consumers that its Kent cigarette filters contained crocidolite asbestos, the most potent carcinogen of the various asbestos fiber types. Despite independent testing conducted at the request of Lorillard in 1954, which demonstrated fiber release from Kent cigarette filters, the company continued to manufacture and sell its product, without recall, for another two years. Between 1952–1956 Lorillard sold 13 billion Kent Micronite asbestos filtered cigarettes.
The jury found Lorillard Tobacco Company guilty of negligence and products liability. By a vote of 9–3, the jury further found that Lorillard Tobacco Company committed oppression in its conduct, which finding allowed for a second phase of trial which was set to begin May 10, 2000. In that phase of trial, the jury would have been asked to assess punitive and exemplary damages against Lorillard Tobacco Company. Prior to the start of the second phase of trial the case was fully resolved between the parties.
Defendant Lorillard Tobacco Company was represented at trial by Roger Geary, David Thorne and William Crampton of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Kansas City, Missouri.