Holding Tobacco Companies Accountable

For decades, Tobacco lawsuits have been making headlines. While there are now strict limitations on tobacco advertisements, smokers from decades past grew up in a time where such ads could be seen everywhere. As more and more American smokers are succumbing to the effects of chronic tobacco use, they are realizing that they were misled.

Those who experience illnesses from their tobacco use, such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, stroke, and emphysema, may be surprised to find out that they can take action against the companies that convinced them to smoke. While not every case will be eligible to take such legal action, it is worth it for clients to explore their options.

Woman smoking by a lake

The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

The R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is a tobacco manufacturing company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Throughout their history, they have advocated on behalf of the tobacco industry, specifically in regard to advertising and other public affairs. First founded in 1875, the R.J. Reynolds company has spent the majority of its existence fighting against the FDA and other organizations that seek to warn the public about the dangers of smoking. 

Most recently, in the case R.J. Reynolds v. FDA, the company challenged the administration on first amendment grounds. This was in response to the FDA’s graphic warning label rule, which requires tobacco companies to place graphic warnings on all of their products and advertisements. These actions taken by R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco companies are a prime example of the role they play in hurting their customers.

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Higgs v. RJ Reynolds

The case of Higgs v. RJ Reynolds involves an Oregon man who began smoking as a teenager in the 1960s. As a result of his decision to start smoking, Mr. Higgs developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), and has to remain on oxygen support for the remainder of his life. This case was one we were proud to work on, as Mr. Higgs was influenced by a tobacco conglomerate at a time when he was most impressionable, and it has cost him dearly. 

TCNF (Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost), a Portland-based law firm, partnered with the Alvarez Law Firm out of Miami in this case. After a long, three-week trial, we were able to prove to the Multnomah County jury that R.J. Reynolds had engaged in decades of fraudulent behavior. These activities involved attempts to persuade young people to start smoking, to conceal the truth about cigarettes’ harmful effects from the public, and to utilize the addictive nature of nicotine to keep their young clients hooked for life.  

In the end, the jury decided to award Mr. Higgs $18.1 million for all of his past and future medical expenses and pain and suffering. Jim Coon took the lead on the case.

Mr. Alex Alvarez


The Alvarez Law Firm has years of experience in handling cases such as these. Many out there have been wronged, whether it be by tobacco companies, employers, or other institutions. We go above and beyond to ensure that our clients get the restitution they deserve so that they can have a brighter future. 

Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment with our office. 

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Thorpe v. RJR

In another case involving R.J. Reynolds, an Oregon jury held the company accountable to the tune of $1.6 million. They found the tobacco company responsible for a long-time smoker’s death. 

After deliberating for more than 15 hours over a three-day trial, the Multnomah County Circuit Court jury found Reynolds had created a misleading cigarette design which resulted in the lung cancer-related death of Richard Thorpe in 2016. However, jurors also found that each party, Reynolds and Thorpe, held about 50% responsibility, which affected the post-verdict. They also rejected the Thorpe family’s claims of strict liability and fraud against Reynolds.

Richard Thorpe

Richard Thorpe first began smoking when he was 15 years old in the 1960s. He went on to smoke an average of two or more packs a day for over 40 years. The family argues that R.J. Reynolds purposefully designed and advertised cigarettes that they knew were dangerous for one’s health.

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Closing Statements

During the closing arguments, Michael Alvarez of The Alvarez Law Firm called back to evidence that indicates R.J. Reynolds knew full well the addictive and harmful nature of cigarettes when it was making its advertisements. Alvarez argued that the design on cigarette cartons is what got Mr. Thorpe hooked on cigarettes and ultimately cost him his life. 

Mr. Alvarez stated that the company was “not selling cigarettes” but “selling addiction” instead. 

Reynolds countered these claims by saying that Mr. Thorpe did not make enough of an effort to quit. They said that he attempted to quit about once every fifteen years and never threw away his cigarettes. These claims are partially what led to the jury finding both parties to be 50% responsible for Mr. Thorpe’s death. 

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Rickman v. RJR

On February 19, 2021, after two weeks of deliberation, a Portland, Oregon jury reached a complete defense verdict in favor of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in a personal injury lawsuit. Mrs. Patricia Rickman and Mr. Jason Rickman had filed a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds, alleging fraud. The plaintiffs asserted that Mrs. Rickman was persuaded by advertisements from Reynolds and that her addiction to cigarettes is what caused her to develop lung cancer in 2018. The Rickmans sought a total of $14.7 million in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages. In the end, the 12-member jury ruled in Reynolds' favor.

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