California District Court Bars Tobacco Lawsuit as Time Barred

Plaintiff’s claim against Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and others is time-barred by the “first injury” rule because her first smoking-related illness – chronic pulmonary disease – was diagnosed more than ten years after Plaintiff filed her complaint.

A California U.S. District Court found that California law provides that a limitations period begins to run when the claim accrues or when the cause of action is complete with all of its elements: wrongdoing, causation, and harm. The court found that plaintiff had actual or constructive knowledge of the existence of these elements when she was diagnosed with chronic pulmonary disease (if not long before). The court found misplaced Plaintiff’s reliance on when a cause of action accrues in an asbestos case which has a separate statute-of-limitations accrual rule.

I don’t like tobacco companies and I really feel for people who are suffering from smoking related illness. It’s just awful. But I don’t believe in the cause of the plaintiffs in the tobacco litigation because almost – agreed almost – every plaintiff knew or should have known of the risk to which they were subjected to and to which they subjected themselves. (One of the very few pro defendant positions I hold.)