Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
To prevail on a strict liability claim under the Connecticut Product Liability Act, a plaintiff must prove: 1.) the defendant was engaged in the business of selling the product; 2.) the product was in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous; 3.) the defect existed at the time of sale and caused the injury; and 4.) the product was expected to and did reach the consumer without a substantial change. Allegedly, the plaintiff, Barbara Izzarelli, started to smoke a pack of cigarettes per day in her teens, then smoked two packs per day and developed laryngeal cancer. Izzarelli underwent a laryngectomy and breathes through a tracheotomy hole in her throat. Izzarelli sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., alleging it added items to the cigarettes that were intended to induce individuals to smoke more cigarettes. Izzarelli's treating doctor, Thomas Lesnik, testified that smoking caused Izzarelli's cancer. R.J. Reynolds moved for judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After a jury awarded Izzarelli $7.9 million in compensatory damages and $3.9 million in punitive damages, the court denied R.J. Reynolds' motion for judgment as a matter of law and its motion for a new trial. R.J. Reynolds appealed to the 2nd Circuit and argued that Connecticut law does not permit a strict product liability suit against a tobacco manufacturer, absent evidence that the cigarettes were contaminated or adulterated. The Connecticut Supreme Court has not considered this legal issue. The 2nd Circuit certified to the Connecticut Supreme Court the issue of whether Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts precludes a strict product liability suit based on evidence that a manufacturer sought to increase individuals' consumption, even if the manufacturer did not contaminate or adulterate the cigarettes. David Golub, Marilyn Ramos and Jonathan Levine represented the plaintiff. David Cooper, Mark Belasic, Theodore Grossman, Todd Geremia and Mark Seiden represented the defendant.