Jury Rules In Favor Of Phillip Morris In Tobacco Trial

Apr 26, 2018

The state of Alaska courthouse in Bethel, Alaska.
Credit Dean Swope/KYUK

A Bethel jury decided in favor of Phillip Morris yesterday in a major lawsuit against the tobacco company. It's unclear whether the case of Dolores Hunter vs. Phillip Morris USA is finally over, or headed to yet another round.

The plaintiff, Dolores Hunter, accused Phillip Morris of defrauding smokers like her husband by manipulating them with false advertising. Her husband started smoking when he was 10, and died of lung cancer 40 years later. Phillip Morris doesn’t deny that it misled customers, but said that the company wasn’t to blame for the death of Hunter’s husband. At trial, attorney Stan Davis argued that Hunter’s husband knew smoking was dangerous and chose to do it anyway.

Dolores Hunter and her attorneys have been in this fight for a long time. This is their 11th year of litigation, and the third time the case has gone to trial in Bethel. The first time they lost, but appealed the verdict. Their second trial ended with a hung jury. Yesterday afternoon, jurors sided with Phillip Morris again. They made the decision quickly, in only three to four hours.

Hunter’s lead attorney, Don Burmeister, said that the verdict was a surprise. He plans to confer with his client to decide whether to appeal the jury’s decision and try the case again.