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Thompson Coburn honored for largest defense win in Missouri

January 30, 2017

Thompson Coburn has been honored for securing the largest defense win of 2016. In fact, with $1.5 billion in potential damages, the total defense verdict for Philip Morris was one of the largest defense wins in Missouri in recent history.

Missouri Lawyers Weekly honored the successful effort in this week’s issue and with the Largest Defense Win award at the Missouri Lawyers Awards on Friday.

When the jury adjourned to consider their decision, Thompson Coburn partner Booker Shaw was optimistic.

“There is no ‘safe cigarette,’ but Lights actually contain less tar and nicotine.  In addition, plaintiffs’ damage model was flawed, so we did not think they could prove any damages,” Judge Shaw said. “I believe that was the lynchpin.”

And the jury apparently agreed. After just 30 minutes of deliberation, a trial that lasted 39 days ended with the total defense verdict.

The case had begun 16 years ago. In 2000, Plaintiff Deborah Larsen filed a class-action suit claiming Philip Morris didn’t deliver on a promise that Lights and cigarettes with low tar labels would reduce nicotine and tar in part because smokers might compensate for the lower nicotine by inhaling longer and more deeply, the plaintiffs’ attorneys claimed.

A first trial in 2011 before Circuit Judge Michael David ended without jurors reaching a decision. The second trial resulted in a mistrial.

For the third trial before Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer, Philip Morris was represented by Judge Shaw, along with Beth Wilkinson of Wilkinson, Walsh and Eskovitz, and George Lombardi of Winston & Strawn. Thompson Coburn associates Felicia Williams and Virginia Woodfork provided invaluable assistance with research, editing, documents, witness examination outlines, slides and witness preparation.

Judge Shaw assisted with the opening statement and closing argument, and conducted some of the cross-examination and direct examination of witnesses.