INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The 4th District Court of Appeal has remanded a case in which a trial court didn't allow testimony of a woman's addiction to nicotine.
Fannie Collar filed an appeal against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. in which the appeals court found that the trial court was incorrect when it ruled that the respiratory physician who treated Collar for lung cancer wasn’t knowledgeable enough to state that she had a nicotine addiction. The court later allowed the pulmonologist’s testimony that she could quit smoking whenever she was “sufficiently motivated to do so.”
In trial court, the tobacco company’s legal team focused on the doctor’s statement that Collar could stop smoking any time. The defense argued that her addiction to nicotine “was not a legal cause of her disease.” Instead, the legal cause was Collar’s decision to keep smoking and ignoring the warnings thus “not making a committed and determined and motivated effort to quit,” according to court records. The defense also said that Collar started smoking again 13 years after a cancerous lung was removed.
Counsel for the defense and the plaintiff disagreed on whether Collar had the ability to quit smoking.
The appeals court's main issue with the trial court’s ruling to not allow the pulmonologist’s testimony about the the plaintiff’s nicotine addiction in court but allow testimony about Collar being able to quit with the right level of “motiviation.”
The appeals court said that if the pulmonologist’s statements about the nicotine addiction or Collar’s ability to quit under sufficient “motivation” were both blocked or both allowed, the jury could have a full understanding of his statements in the proper context.
As a result, the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded it to the lower court.