A New York asbestos court recently struck down a motion by defendants in an asbestos cancer lawsuit which has sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiff was a smoker who otherwise ignored health warnings on the packages of cigarettes he smoked. In its decision, the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York soundly rejected the desperate attempt by defendants Viacom Inc. and General Electric Company to avoid liability for the alleged negligence that the plaintiff’s estate claims was directly responsible for the victim’s mesothelioma diagnosis.
The crux of Viacom and General Electric’s motion for summary judgment was that since now deceased plaintiff was a longtime smoker who did not heed the warnings placed on cigarette packages he smoked, the victim therefore would have ignored any warnings the companies would have, but did not, place on their own allegedly carcinogenic asbestos products. In response, the plaintiff’s estate argued that he had not been aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes when he started his habit, but tried repeatedly to quit once he learned of the health risks.
In its decision, the New York Supreme Court called the defendants’ argument “speculative” and that the question of the victim’s credibility to his claims must be left to a jury to decide. The court further found another motion brought by defendants to dismiss claims for punitive damages as unpersuasive, leaving open the possibility that a jury could ultimately award additional damages should they find the companies’ conduct rose to the standards which would warrant such additional compensation.