Wednesday, July 30, 2008

UNITED STATES V. PHILIP MORRIS

Dr. Sharon Eubanks, who served as the lead counsel for the United States in the largest civil Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) enforcement action ever filed, United States v. Philip Morris, et al, spoke to a room full of attentive audience members on the nuts and bolts of expert witness in fighting against the tobacco industry. In this 9-month landmark case in tobacco control history, the federal district court found the defendants liable for RICO violations and ordered injunctive relief.

Eubanks first explained the difference between a fact witness (one who observed the happening of an event) and an expert witness (one who has the knowledge for the trial of the facts) and emphasized the importance of selecting qualified expert witnesses with supporting publications, documents, and credibility. Dr. Jonathan Samet and Dr. Frank Chaloupka, both speakers in the Tobacco Control Leadership Program, both participated as expert witnesses in this trial.

During her lecture, Eubanks highlighted 20 expert witnesses who testified in the trial. They consisted of professionals from various fields including economics, psychology, epidemiology, medicine, social behavioral research, and mass communication. Eubanks stressed the importance of having expert witnesses in this case and also shared a memorable testimony by Dr. Fiori whose patient quit smoking for her grandchild but then passed away from cancer soon after she quit.

Eubanks advised the participants that in preparing for a similar lawsuit of their own they should target the obvious weakness of the tobacco industry—fraudulence which includes marketing to youth, the health effects, low-tar tactics, and the development of less hazardous cigarette products.

-Alice Tsai, Institute for Global Tobacco Control

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