Saturday, May 20, 2006

MA Supremes: There’ll be no personal responsibility in our state, Mister!
SJC says tobacco firms can't blame smokers as defense

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday that cigarette makers cannot defend against personal-injury lawsuits by arguing that smokers should know the health risks of cigarettes and thus are responsible for harming themselves.

Cigarettes, the court said, are so dangerous that they cannot be used safely by anyone.

The ruling, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation by a top state court, said Philip Morris Inc. cannot shield itself from a lawsuit by the widow of a Douglas man who died of lung cancer by arguing that he knew cigarettes were harmful and thus had used the product unreasonably. Tobacco companies have successfully used that defense in wrongful death suits across the country.

''Because no cigarette can be safely used for its ordinary purpose, smoking, there can be no nonunreasonable [sic] use of cigarettes," Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote for the court...

No nonunreasonable use! Doesn’t it just give you goose bumps when a learned judge’s reasoning imparts clear and unassailable legal precedent for the ages.

In reading Chief Justice Marshall’s bio, I was struck by the fact that she may be the nation’s highest ranking white African-American.

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