Tobacco litigation FAQ blog 2

Frequently Asked Questions About Tobacco Litigation in Massachusetts: Part II

Following up on part one of our frequently asked questions about tobacco litigation in Massachusetts, below are seven additional questions we are commonly asked. 

Q: Is it My Own Fault For Not Quitting?

A: No.

As one executive at tobacco company Brown and Williamson, makers of such brands as Carlton, Lucky Strike and Kool, wrote in 1963: “Nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug.”

In fact, tobacco companies conducted their own research on just how much nicotine was required to get people addicted without making the cigarettes taste bad. Over the years, they have adjusted the amount of nicotine to have the best chance of initiating and sustaining addiction in smokers. 

Even if you know smoking is bad for you, it can be challenging to stop. Addiction is not a choice. Some people are biologically more susceptible to nicotine addiction than others. While some might be able to stop or cut back, others might experience unbearable withdrawal symptoms, making it impossible to quit.

And how do the companies respond? As one tobacco company insider put it: “isn’t it fortunate for us that cigarettes are a habit they can’t break.”

Q: How Long Do Tobacco Lawsuits Take?

A: They can take years.

As we know, cigarettes are a billion-dollar industry and tobacco companies have a lot at stake. With very deep pockets, Big Tobacco vigorously defends every case brought against it. But, even though it might have taken years, many individuals and their families have successfully sued tobacco companies for their injuries or death. 

Q: What Can I Expect When I File a Tobacco Lawsuit?

A: A comprehensive look at your smoking history.

Because tobacco companies will invariably take your claim to court, you can expect to provide a comprehensive account of your smoking history, including medical records, accounts from friends and family about your smoking habits (including how and when you first started smoking), photos and/or social media posts that show you’ve been a long-time smoker and more. You will also be expected to answer questions from the tobacco company about your smoking history. While all of this may sound daunting, the tobacco lawsuit team at Shepard O’Donnell helps clients pull together all relevant information in preparation for a successful suit.

Q: How Much Can I Expect to Win?

A: $0 or $Millions.

This is a difficult question since every case and fact pattern is different. There are no hard and fast guidelines that allow us (or anybody else) to predict what a jury will decide. There is a very real chance that the award will be negligible. That said, however, the tobacco lawyers at Shepard O’Donnell were recently part of the trial team that won a ground-breaking $43.1 million verdict against RJ Reynolds on behalf of an individual victim. We do not guarantee similar results in future cases, and clients should be aware that even after a lengthy trial, the reward might be zero.

Q: I have COPD or Esophageal Cancer or Heart Disease; Will You Take my Case?

A: Not at this time.

Shepard O’Donnell is currently only taking cases involving lung cancer due to smoking but we are happy to refer you to experienced counsel who can evaluate your case.

Q: What is the Statute of Limitations to File a Tobacco Lawsuit in Massachusetts?

A: Three years (or longer.)

The general statute of limitations for Massachusetts, including for tobacco-related lawsuits, is up to three (3) years from the date your injuries were discovered or from your family member’s death. Even if you think you missed Massachusetts’ statute of limitations, it is still worth speaking with a tobacco lawsuit attorney. We can review the facts of your case to establish which deadline applies to your case and if you still have time or fall under certain statutory exceptions. You can rely on Shepard O’Donnell to consider every legal opportunity.

Q: How Do I Know If I Have a Case?

A: Call the experienced tobacco lawyers at Shepard O’Donnell.

A Massachusetts tobacco lawyer will help you determine which laws apply to your case and how. Shepard O’Donnell will also fully investigate your injuries and help you preserve all admissible, related evidence. Allow an experienced and compassionate tobacco lawsuit attorney on our legal team to evaluate your situation to provide clarity and direction regarding your options. Cigarette and tobacco companies willfully choose to place profits over people. Shepard O’Donnell will stand by your side throughout the entire process while holding these companies accountable for their careless and reckless actions.

Shepard O’Donnell is currently accepting cases for people living with lung cancer due to smoking that took place mainly in Massachusetts.

We have a strong track record of success when representing personal injury and wrongful death victims in matters against tobacco and cigarette companies, including a ground-breaking $43.1 million verdict against RJ Reynolds on behalf of an individual victim.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tobacco Litigation in Massachusetts: Part I

The tobacco industry has knowingly put millions of lives at risk for decades by continuing to actively market cigarettes and smoking, despite being aware of the harmful health effects of inhaling nicotine and other additives into the lungs.

The tobacco lawsuit team at Shepard O’Donnell helps clients with lung cancer due to smoking in Massachusetts obtain justice from tobacco companies for their injuries. We feel strongly about making tobacco companies pay for the grievous harm they have inflicted on individuals and families and are committed to holding them accountable for their actions. Read more about our landmark $43.1 million verdict

Below are some common questions we are asked about tobacco litigation.

Q: Can I Still File a Tobacco Lawsuit in Massachusetts?

A: Yes. 

As it becomes more difficult to file tobacco suits in other states, Massachusetts remains a viable place to bring your tobacco lawsuit. If you or your loved one developed lung cancer or died as a result of smoking in Massachusetts, you may be successful in suing the tobacco company that caused your injuries. Although these cases can be long and complicated, favorable verdicts do happen, even today. 

Q: I Live Outside of Massachusetts; Can I File a Tobacco Case?

A: Maybe.

As Massachusetts tobacco lawyers, Shepard O’Donnell is only accepting cases in which the majority of a victim’s smoking history took place in Massachusetts. If you live in another state but started smoking in Massachusetts and spent a significant amount of time here, please reach out to us for a free case evaluation to see if we can help. 

Q: Is This a Class Action?

A: No. 

The courts have made it more difficult in recent years to file class action suits against Big Tobacco because the class is so big, involving victims nationwide. As a result, tobacco lawsuits are filed on behalf of an individual and/or their family, and each is considered as a separate claim.

Q: Haven’t All Tobacco Cases Been Settled By Now?

A: No. 

Big Tobacco vigorously defends its own interests and does not typically settle lawsuits brought against it. With millions of victims still suffering and dying from lung cancer due to smoking, there are potentially many more suits to be filed. Although the Attorneys General from 52 states and territories signed the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998, that agreement does not mean that all cases are settled.

Q: My Loved One Died From Lung Cancer Due to Smoking; Can I File a Suit on His/Her Behalf?

A: Yes. 

Depending on the specific details of the claim, surviving family members may be able to file a lawsuit on behalf of their loved one. It’s best to contact experienced tobacco lawyers to discuss your case so they can advise you on the best course of action. Shepard O’Donnell offers free case evaluations for individuals and families who have been affected by lung cancer due to smoking in Massachusetts.

Q: Don’t Companies Have a Legitimate Defense Because of the Warnings on Packaging?

A: No.

The relatively strong warnings that we see on cigarette packaging today weren’t mandated by the government until 1998, but by then, millions were already addicted. Before that, warnings were vague and ineffectual: The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required that the warning “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health” be placed in small print on one of the side panels of each cigarette package. This was not enough to deter people from smoking, or to adequately warn about the health risks known to the tobacco companies but hidden from the public.

Even with these warnings, tobacco companies continued their aggressive – and deceptive – marketing tactics, effectively contradicting their warnings. 

Q: Is it My Own Fault For Starting to Smoke in the First Place?

A: No.

Tobacco companies knew exactly what they were doing when they got millions of people hooked on nicotine. They intentionally marketed to young people and teens, using sexy and fun imagery to convey the idea that smoking was exciting and cool. Think of the Marlboro Man and the cartoon Joe Camel in cigarette ads, or even Sean Connery’s James Bond or Audrey Hepburn on the big screen, looking glamorous through clouds of smoke.

A much more insidious tactic involved handing out free sample packs of cigarettes to children as young as eight years old. Their plan—-a successful one as it turns out—-was to turn these children into addicts and lifelong tobacco consumers.

In a 1953 confidential report for Philip Morris, the researcher writes: “Studies of clinical data tend to confirm the relationship between heavy and prolonged tobacco smoking and incidence of lung cancer.” Did that stop companies from marketing to an impressionable audience? No.

Executives at Big Tobacco knew they had to keep smokers hooked and actively fought back against information that showed smoking was bad for your health. In 1964, after reading the Surgeon General’s Report on the dangers of smoking, internal communications at the highest levels at Philip Morris International revealed a chilling plan: “We must in the near future give smokers a psychological crutch and a self-rationale to continue smoking.” 

According to the industry watchdog, Expose Tobacco, the industry “ran deceptive campaigns, misled policymakers even when under oath, and paid for biased research to help create confusion. The longer the truth was withheld, the more people smoked, unaware of the damage it was causing to their bodies.”

Millions of people have fallen victim to the deceptive marketing practices of tobacco companies and have paid a deadly price.

Q: I Smoked Menthol Cigarettes, Is That Different?

A: No.

Menthol cigarettes were invented and designed by the tobacco industry because research showed they were easier to smoke. Menthol numbs the cough reflex, which allowed even people who were sensitive to regular cigarettes to take up smoking. This is yet another example of how Big Tobacco actively sought to “recruit” more smokers.

Marketing of menthol cigarettes was heavily targeted towards African American teenagers and children since studies showed that 85% of Black smokers preferred menthol cigarettes. According to a 2022 NPR report, “tobacco industries specifically found influencers in Black communities and gave them free samples, to build markets surreptitiously. The companies also sponsored events like the Kool Jazz Festival, that included an ad of Dizzy Gillespie next to a pack of Kools.”

Menthol enhances nicotine’s addictiveness and the flavor makes the cigarettes “easier” to use and because of this, they were acknowledged by the industry as great “starter products.” Menthol cigarettes weren’t banned in Massachusetts until 2020!

These are just a few of the questions that we are asked on a regular basis by victims of lung cancer due to smoking. Stay tuned for Part II of our blog, which will be released shortly. We will answer seven more commonly asked questions about suing tobacco companies for financial compensation.

What is “Loss of Consortium” and Do I Have a Claim?

When a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, you and your family members may have a lot of questions. How did they get this disease? What treatments are available? Will I need to take time off work to help care for them? Another question that may come up is: Can we get financial compensation for their injuries? 

If, after speaking with an experienced mesothelioma attorney, the answer is yes, you might also consider seeking compensation for the suffering you and any dependent family members will potentially have to go through. While the pursuit of financial compensation for mesothelioma and lung cancer victims is certainly the primary injury claim, there is an often overlooked aspect of these lawsuits: the impact on the injured’s family. This is called a loss of consortium claim. 

What is Loss of Consortium?

A devastating medical diagnosis impacts not just the individual diagnosed but the whole family. In close marital relationships, the spouse bears the burden of illness alongside their husband or wife, both during the course of the disease and, even more acutely, following the death of their loved one. 

Loss of consortium refers to the loss of marital benefits that a spouse enjoys throughout marriage and includes not just financial considerations, but all aspects of the person’s personal life: love, companionship, comfort and care, emotional and moral support, sexual relations, social activities, as well as daily tasks, chores and errands. In Massachusetts, the victim’s minor children or disabled adult children, also have a right to a loss of consortium claim. 

In essence, loss of consortium is a claim that seeks compensation for the loss of the richness and fullness of a relationship, whether marital or parent-child and encompasses many things including:

  • Loss of Emotional Connection: When a mesothelioma or lung cancer victim can no longer provide the love and emotional support they once did, family members understandably experience sadness and loneliness at the loss of a meaningful emotional connection. Whether it’s the unconditional love of a spouse or the unfailing moral support and guidance of a parent, the emotional toll of that loss is devastating.
  • Loss of a Life Partner: Marriage is a partnership. You are partners in child-rearing, caring for your home and garden, cooking, cleaning, laundry, planning medical appointments and much more. When one partner becomes too weak to help, the other must shoulder added responsibilities and duties, which can lead to stress and exhaustion. 
  • Loss of Parental Support and Guidance: In Massachusetts, loss of consortium includes the loss of a parent. Parents play an important role in shaping their children’s futures and are often instrumental in providing guidance in education, careers or personal and family life. As a key influence in a child’s life, the loss of a parent can have a significant negative impact on that child’s future.  
  • Loss of Income: If the injured spouse is unable to work, and/or if you need to give up your job to act as a caregiver, this can put a significant strain on a family’s finances, especially as medical bills start piling up. 
  • Loss of Social Connection: As your spouse gets weaker, he or she may be unable to participate in social events. You may be hesitant to engage in social activities alone, which could lead to social isolation and an increased risk of depression. 

What Does a Loss of Consortium Claim Mean for Your Family?

A loss of consortium claim recognizes that it is because of someone else’s negligence (that is, the companies that knowingly put workers in danger from asbestos) that you are now put in a position to cope with your loved one’s illness, shoulder the burden of maintaining a household, and face a life without a spouse or parent. Companies that knowingly exposed their employees to harmful substances such as asbestos should be held accountable for their actions, not only against the victims themselves, but also the family members who suffer alongside them.

Financial compensation for loss of consortium can help families get through the trying times during the course of the illness, particularly if you’ve had to leave your job to care for your spouse. In addition to household and family responsibilities, you might also need to hire extra help around the house or yard, rearrange living spaces to accommodate medical equipment, or order special meal services to support the patient’s treatment and recovery. 

A loss of consortium claim entitles you to recover damages for the entire length of time the injury caused the loss. 

How Can I File a Loss of Consortium Claim?

Each marriage and family is unique; therefore, each loss of consortium case is unique. The foundation of a strong loss of consortium claim is proof of a strong marriage and family bond in which family members enjoy interconnected and mutually supportive lives. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help advise what claims are best to pursue based on your specific circumstances.

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, regardless of whether through direct or secondary exposure to asbestos, you may have a claim. Unfortunately, in addition to direct jobsite exposure, we have seen instances of mesothelioma in wives who routinely did their husband’s asbestos-covered laundry, or in children who hugged dad every day as he came home from work in clothes embedded with asbestos fibers. Call us today to determine your next steps, and we’ll help you navigate the process. At Shepard O’Donnell, we have helped hundreds of individuals and their families get justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts in the millions. We are happy to offer you a free case evaluation and will tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim, including a claim for loss of consortium.

5 Nutritional Tips to Help Chemotherapy Patients Stay on Track

Written by: Shepard Law Firm Staff

For many individuals who have been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, an important consideration for treatment options includes a discussion of the potential side-effects of each treatment.

Those who choose to undergo chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer or mesothelioma often experience side effects including loss of appetite, nausea, trouble swallowing and other side effects that make eating and holding down food difficult or uncomfortable. In some cases, patients who are undergoing chemotherapy have even reported that their sense of taste has changed, and certain foods seem to take on a metallic taste.

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments are often told to try to eat “even if you’re not hungry” that can be understandably difficult to do. Although eating may not be pleasant, it is important for anyone who is fighting cancer to maintain a balanced diet.

  • Keep a food diary: A food diary will be very helpful in maintaining a balanced diet. Keep track of what you eat, and when. Take notes on what foods are the easiest to eat and what foods are no longer appealing to you. Having this information in writing will be also be very helpful to share with your doctor.
  • Stock up on healthy foods that require little or no preparation: While undergoing cancer treatment, finding time to prepare meals may be difficult. Having easy to prepare foods such as frozen vegetables, you will be able to maintain a healthy diet even when finding the time to prepare meals may be difficult.
  • Try to eat at the same times every day: A side effect of many cancer treatments is a loss of appetite. Waiting until you are hungry to eat may leave you with insufficient nutrients to maintain your energy and strength. By setting a schedule and eating at the same times each day, you will receive proper nutrition even on days when you may not be hungry.
    Ask to meet with a Nutritionist: Many leading hospitals have nutritionists on staff to consult with patients undergoing cancer treatments. If the hospital you are treating at does not have a nutritionist on staff, your doctor can likely refer you to one. Reviewing your food diary and discussing your diet with a nutritionist will ensure that you are eating the right foods to maintain your strength and energy during your cancer treatments.
  • Eat foods that pack the biggest nutritional punch: Learning which foods provide the greatest levels of necessary nutrients can allow you to maintain a balanced diet without eating large amounts of food. Avocados, nuts, and seeds often provide a great deal of protein and other essential vitamins and nutrients in relatively small servings. A nutritionist can provide you further information as to the nutritional value of different foods.

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often have difficultly eating and swallowing solid food. If you find yourself in this position, you may want to use a smoothie machine or blender to create nutritious drinks and smoothies. Try to incorporate a variety of ingredients into your smoothies, including frozen fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach provide iron and other essential vitamins and minerals, and make for an excellent smoothie base. Buying fresh and then freezing them will keep your vegetables from spoiling. Add frozen berries or pineapple to add sweetness to the smoothie and get your Vitamin C. For a protein boost, try adding peanut butter, avocado or Greek yogurt to your smoothie. Throw in a banana to add potassium and texture to the smoothie. Mix and match ingredients until you find the combination that tastes the best.

The following links have further information on the topics of nutrition and diet for individuals undergoing cancer treatments:

If you or a loved one is an undergoing treatment for lung cancer or mesothelioma and would like to learn more about your rights please call us for free, confidential consultation (617) 451-9191.