Wrongful Death Settlement in Chewing Tobacco Case Provides Insight into Wrongful Death Issues


March 31, 2011

The family of a man who used chewing tobacco since the age of thirteen has recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit for 5 million dollars. The man was 42 when he died of mouth cancer. His wife brought a wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina claiming that the company knowingly produced a product that was dangerous and defective and was also known to cause addiction, disease, and untimely death. Because the defendant in this case sells 650 million cans of this type of tobacco in the U.S. annually, it is safe to assume that this case could lead to a wave of lawsuits related to the serious illnesses and death caused by smokeless tobacco.

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, has been representing those who suffer wrongful death or serious injury caused by dangerous and defective products for over 27 years. If you have suffered serious injury or wrongful death caused by a dangerous or defective product, contact Montlick and Associates for a free consultation to discuss your rights to compensation.

Admittedly, no sum of money can truly compensate someone for the loss of a loved one, but a wrongful death action (along with a survival action) does permit a family to receive some sense of justice and may punish a company that knowingly and intentionally exposes consumers to dangerous and defective products. A wrongful death lawsuit may also provide financial compensation to help a family deal with funeral expenses and the loss of family income from a breadwinner. In Georgia, a jury may award damages based on the value of a person's life. This measure of damages, as defined under Georgia law, is considered the "full value of the life of the deceased." A jury calculates this value by determining the projected lifetime income- tax and expense free - of the deceased as well as the intangible value of the enjoyment that a person would have experienced had they continued living.

The "full value of the life" is determined solely by the enlightened conscience of an impartial jury. Unlike some states, Georgia imposes no statutory formula or arbitrary limit on the damages awarded in a wrongful death case. The economic component of the value of the life may be reduced to present value under Georgia wrongful death law, but the intangible aspects of the value of the life are not reduced to present value.

In addition to the wrongful death claim for the full value of the life, the administrator or executor of the decedent's estate has a claim for the decedent's medical and funeral expenses, and for conscious pain and suffering before death. Punitive damages may be awarded in connection with such a survival action on behalf of the estate.

When a surviving spouse sues for wrongful death, as in the smokeless tobacco case, the spouse must share the award with any children of the deceased. If the surviving spouse is not alive at the time of the award, the proceeds from the case are awarded to the surviving children. The parents of a deceased person also have the right to sue for wrongful death in Georgia. If there is no spouse, child or surviving parent, the deceased's estate can sue on behalf of the next of kin.

The laws governing wrongful death actions, evidence and procedure in other states may differ significantly from Georgia law. If the events and parties causing a death involve more than one state, we try to consider all the options with regard to choice of law and choice of the court in which a case should be filed. When appropriate, we will associate experienced local counsel in another state to work with us in wrongful death cases.

Every wrongful death case is unique and presents its own specific factual and legal issues. However, it is reasonable to assume that the North Carolina settlement may give rise to a wave of lawsuits based on serious illness and wrongful deaths caused by chewing tobacco. Given the small number of judgments and settlements on this issue, it is essential to consult an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney if you have suffered injury caused by smokeless tobacco.

Our experienced Georgia wrongful death lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.