North Miami man’s case against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds will continue

 

ebenn@MiamiHerald.com

An 87-year-old former smoker from North Miami will be able to bring his lawsuit against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds to a jury after an appellate court ruled in his favor Wednesday.

Everett Belanger successfully appealed a 2011 ruling from Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko, who dismissed Belanger’s claim that cigarettes made him sick.

In finding 2-1 on behalf of Belanger this week, the Third District Court of Appeal noted that he began smoking when he was 10 years old. He testified that he quit 45 years later, on Aug. 29, 1981.

“[T]hat is when I realized to myself, you sick son of a bitch, you are reaching for something that is killing you,” Belanger said in a deposition. “I threw the pack away...I never had another cigarette.”

Belanger’s doctors diagnosed him with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 1993. That was Belanger’s first medical evidence that cigarettes may have affected his health, the appellate court said. His deposition admission that he believed in 1981 that cigarettes were “killing” him did not carry the same weight as his medical diagnosis in 1993, the court said.

“The trial court erred in concluding that Belanger ... reasonably should have known that he was suffering from a medical condition or disease caused by smoking,” the justices wrote in their opinion.

Belanger’s case against R.J. Reynolds, which he originally filed in 2007, will go back to Miami-Dade court for a jury trial.

Read more Business stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category