Defense paints picture of woman smoking not from nicotine addiction, but loneliness

By John Sammon | Apr 30, 2019

FORT LAUDERDALE – Defense attorneys on Monday sought to portray plaintiff Karla Zingaro as a lonely woman who took to smoking because she enjoyed it and to help her deal with personal and family problems, not because of nicotine addiction as plaintiff attorneys contend.

“What is your conclusion?” asked Ken Reilly the attorney for cigarette maker Philip Morris.

“It was my opinion she (Zingaro) was not addicted to nicotine,” said Dr. Christopher Ticknor, a San Antonio-based forensic psychiatrist specializing in addictions called as a defense witness.

Ticknor told a jury he interviewed Zingaro at her home and studied hundreds of her medical records.

The trial in the 17th Judicial Circuit Florida Court is being streamed live courtesy of Courtroom View Network.

Zingaro and her husband Robert are suing Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds for the lung cancer and emphysema afflicting the woman saying the companies conspired to hide from the public the addictive nature of the cigarettes they sold and should pay compensatory and punitive damages.

Defense attorneys argue that Zingaro knew the dangers of smoking as millions of others who quit smoking did, and smoked anyway, so bears responsibility for her own health problems.

Zingaro, 65, started smoking as a teenager and continued smoking up to two packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years. She attempted to quit repeatedly to no avail but finally was able to quit in 2009 after using an E-cigarette, an electronic device that delivers nicotine to the brain without the chemical compounds in a normal cigarette.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer and received radiation treatments, then a second time when the cancer recurred. She also suffers from emphysema and greatly reduced breathing function. Her future prognosis is not good.

Ticknor said Zingaro had the ability to quit smoking at any time she chose, and could have, had she been sufficiently motivated and taken action to quit.

Reilly asked Ticknor if Zingaro had mood issues.

“She has had depression and anxiety all her adult life,” Ticknor said.

He said that in addition she suffered from bipolar disorder.

Ticknor said during an interview Zingaro confided that she viewed smoking as a friend and felt lonely and depressed because of marital and family problems.

“Did she (Zingaro) consume alcohol for a long time?” Reilly asked.

“Yes,” Ticknor responded.

“In the same way (as cigarettes)?”

“In my opinion at times yes,” Ticknor said. “She said when she was feeling depressed that cigarettes would always be there for her.”

Ticknor explained such behavior is not unusual. He said in attempting to feel better Zingaro would engage in repetitive actions, drinking and smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes and alcohol released dopamine in the brain producing a pleasure-inducing reaction.

Reilly exhibited for the jury an addiction criteria chart listing 11 characteristics of addiction. He said based on the criteria an addicted person should meet six of the 11 criteria. Zingaro, he said, was below that level. Though she was a heavy smoker, she could still visit relatives, go shopping or engage in recreation such as water skiing without smoking.

Ticknor said he was being paid $7,700 for a full day of testimony and would bill an approximate $50,000 for his full participation in the case including interviews and research.

Under cross examination Todd Falzone, Zingaro’s attorney, asked Ticknor if the woman is dying because of smoking-related conditions.

Ticknor agreed.

You tell this jury she was never addicted not for a single day, not for a minute, that’s your opinion, right?” Falzone asked.

“Yes,” Ticknor said.

“You’re not Karla’s treating doctor?”

“Correct.”

“You had never met Karla until 2018 when Philip Morris hired you, nine years after she quit smoking, right?”

“Yes,” Ticknor said.

“You saw her (interview) because Philip Morris is paying you?”

“Yes,” Ticknor said.

Falzone said Ticknor had been contacted by Reilly’s office in 2010 asking him if he would become an expert for Philip Morris in nicotine cases.

“This was a big day for you,” Falzone said.

Ticknor said he was asked if he had a background in taking care of people with addictions, and because he did, agreed to serve as an expert witness.

“You would agree the single most common form of chemical dependency in the U.S. is nicotine, right?” Falzone asked.

“Yes,” Ticknor said.

Ticknor was asked if the reason people continue to smoke is nicotine.

“I would agree,” he said.

Falzone said a slide exhibited by the defense failed to mention nicotine as a cause of continued smoking.

“Where’s nicotine?” Falzone asked. “It’s not on the slide is it?”

“It’s not on,” Ticknor agreed.

“It (nicotine) only takes seven seconds to go from the lungs to the brain, right?”

“That’s correct,” Ticknor said.

“Folks who smoke get brain changes, receptors that are looking for that nicotine, right?” Falzone asked.

“Yes,” Ticknor said.

Closing arguments in the case begin tomorrow.

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Organizations in this Story

Philip Morris Management Inc. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co

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