It’s West Virginia smokers vs. big tobacco. Closing arguments were held Tuesday in a Kanawha County courtroom in the mass litigation suit brought by 700 state residents against five major tobacco companies.

The trial got underway three weeks ago. The litigants claim they were harmed by using tobacco products that were dangerous and the companies never warned them about the risks. The plaintiffs say they were led to believe filtered cigarettes were less harmful than non-filtered.

Plaintiff’s attorney Ken McClain argued Tuesday the companies knew the filters were defective.

“They didn’t work,” McClain said. “But the illusion of filtration is what [the companies] were trying to accomplish.”

McClaim told the jury that the tobacco companies researched and found ways to create a cigarette that produced less tar and nicotine but never made them available to the public.

“All of the products that are sold are defective by design…by design,” McClain said. “They could have been made safer. They weren’t”

McClain told the jury the less nicotine in the cigarettes, the less addictive they are and therefore fewer people would likely smoke.

Defense attorney Jeff Furr admitted to the jury during closing arguments that cigarettes are harmful to your health and do cause cancer. But he stressed it’s not the design of the cigarette that makes them dangerous.

“There are products in our society that are dangerous by nature like guns, knives, things like that. It’s just a part of the natural attribute of the product. And that’s the category that cigarettes fall into,” said Furr.

He told the jurors it’s not faulty filters that compromise the health of smokers but rather the tobacco itself which is a natural product.

“Cigarettes are dangerous and addictive by nature, not by design,” according to Furr. He represents R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, American Tobacco Co., Philip Morris and Lorillard.

The jury will decide if the cigarettes are defective and if smokers were properly instructed and warned. The plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages

Senior Status Circuit Court Judge Arthur Recht is presiding over the trial. It’s been 13 years making to the courtroom.

The case was moved from Wheeling when an impartial jury could not be found. Two previous attempts to find an impartial jury in Kanawha County were unsuccessful. This time 8,000 potential jurors were called for the jury pool. That’s believed to be the largest ever summoned in West Virginia.

If the jury rules in favor of the plaintiffs another jury will decide the monetary damages.


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  • Rick

    With so many other angles that could have been used to show cause, "not warning" shows could someone honestly think that they were not warned...what rock did they crawl out of. We all know that tobacco companies are liable for what they did and didn't do, but warnings are not one of

  • DonaldH

    BIG Tobacco? Big Pharmaceutical Big Oil, Big Business —Have you ever noticed when a modern “journalist” writes a story—and note I said writes and not reports— that pits the poor little guy against the big ole mean capitalist system the evil money grabbing companies always take on the persona of BIG!! If we could just get our journalist to equally see the evils and hardships caused by BIG GOVERNMENT as they do BIG Capitalism we’d most likely all have a better quality of life..

  • leon

    REALLY.....REALLY. We give huge congressional tax incentives and subsidies to all Tobacco companies and farmers, WE have proven that this is the only product when used properly WILL KILL you. You used , you ignored the warnings and apparent dangers. Instead of a lawsuit- how about a Jeff Foxworthy..."Here's your sign" !

  • Theresa Brewerton

    There has been warning labels on smokes for a very long time. TV adds run, magazine articles, Bill boards and even education in schools about it. You knew what you were doing. Take responsibility for you behaviors. This law suit is not right.

    • Shadow

      Loser Pays would have prevented this suit.

  • Barry Bledsoe

    Seriously? People are warned from the time that they are kids that cigarettes are bad for you. These people made a conscious choice to start smoking, and now they want the tobacco companies to pay them for their poor choices?

    • Lucinda

      Exactly!! There are soo many peeps out there that want to make a quick buck!

    • C.Hoffman

      Agree, Barry. Amazing! Welcome to the USSA. Of the trial lawyers, By the trial lawyers and For the trial lawyers. It's all about the money with this crowd.