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Thompson Coburn sweeps 37 plaintiffs in jury verdicts for Lorillard Tobacco Company

May 13, 2011

On April 29, 2011, Thompson Coburn secured defense verdicts in favor of Lorillard Tobacco Company against 37 Missouri hospitals in a consolidated cost recovery lawsuit tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis.

Plaintiffs were seeking a compensatory award of more than $450 million as well as punitive damages.

The suit was filed in 1998 and included almost 60 hospitals at its peak. Plaintiffs initially sought to recover what they claimed were billions of dollars in past and future damages, which they described as unreimbursed costs for treating medically indigent and non-paying patients who smoked. The jury returned its verdicts in favor of Lorillard and the other defendants on the seventh day of deliberations after hearing 11 weeks of evidence.

Thompson Coburn’ s pre-trial motions strategy eliminated from the case all purported future damages - more than a billion dollars in losses according to plaintiffs - as well as all of plaintiffs’ fraud, misrepresentation, and concealment claims. As a result, the only issues that remained for trial were those that related to the design of cigarettes and to damages.

For years before the trial commenced, Thompson Coburn’s strategy focused on proving that plaintiffs were not damaged financially because the overall effect of smoking on hospitals is financial benefit, not financial harm. “Most patients, including most smokers, are profitable to hospitals,” said Thompson Coburn partner and lead trial counsel for Lorillard, Carl Rowley. “The hospitals tried to create the illusion of financial loss by focusing only on patients who did not pay and ignoring patients who did pay. Exposing this ploy was a simple, common sense approach that resulted in defense verdicts across the board.” Thompson Coburn was the principal architect of this strategy and took the lead at trial in presenting it to the jury.

Lorillard‘s trial team consisted of Thompson Coburn partners Carl Rowley, Booker Shaw, and Bruce Ryder.