Florida Supreme Court Reviews Asbestos in Cigarette Filters Case

Illustration of legal cases for asbestos and mesothelioma

The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case filed by Richard DeLisle who claims that his mesothelioma was caused by asbestos in cigarette filters and other products.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Crane Co. were the manufacturers accused of causing the exposure with asbestos in the gaskets they produced. DeLisle also stated the R.J. Reynolds (formerly Kent) filters he smoked in the 1950s had asbestos as well.

Kent was the most well-known developer of asbestos-based cigarette filters. In the 1950s, the manufacturer used crocidolite asbestos—one of the most deadly forms of of the mineral—in its patented Micronite filter.

Crocidolite asbestos is made up of microscopic needles so every time a smoker inhaled, the needles bore into lung tissue, causing chronic inflammation that oncology researchers now believe result in cellular mutations that lead to cancer and mesothelioma.

According to a variety of studies over the last two decades, cigarette smoking does not lead to mesothelioma, but cigarette smokers who are exposed to asbestos are about 50 to 84 times more likely to develop asbestos-related lung cancer.

While mesothelioma cancer can have a lengthy latency period, with most cases being diagnosed 30 years or more after the initial exposure, once developed, it can be extremely aggressive.

DeLisle won $8 million when he took his case to Broward County. Then the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the manufacturers last year determining the testimonies of three of DeLisle’s expert witnesses were not supposed to be admitted to court.

Florida has a number of state laws related to asbestos, including air quality regulations, asbestos removal programs, and asbestos litigation.

For example, in 2005, upon feeling pressure due to the number of asbestos-related lawsuits that had been filed in the state, the Florida legislature passed the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Fairness Act (ASCFA) with the intention of reducing the amount of litigation being brought into state courts. It’s still the primary law regulating asbestos litigation in Florida.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince voted to accept the case. Justices Charles Canady, Rick Polston, and Alan Lawson were against it. A date has not yet been set for oral arguments.