The California Supreme Court has decided that smokers can sue cigarette manufacturers if they develop lung cancer or another smoking-related illness, even if they had a different tobacco-related disease before. The vote was unanimous, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The newspaper says the court’s decision is likely to result in new suits and to keep older suits active that might otherwise have been dismissed.
The case involved a former smoker who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 1989. Several years later, she was diagnosed with periodontal disease. Both conditions were caused by smoking. But it was not until she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 that she sued the tobacco industry. Under California law people have two years to sue after discovering an injury, the newspaper reports.
The tobacco industry said the woman’s suit should be dismissed because the timetable for suing started in 1989, when she first found out that smoking was damaging her health. However the court ruled that having a prior illness does not start the legal deadline for filing suit if the injury was “separate and distinct” from the later illness, the newspaper reports.
Tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris USA issued a statement saying the decision would be relevant “only in a very small fraction of cases filed,” according to the article.