Lawsuit for Alleged Negligent Cigarette Design in New York

In Adamo v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. (11 NY3d 545, 900 NE2d 966, 872 NYS2d 415 [2008], the decedent smoked American Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA Inc. regular cigarettes for more than 40 years. The plaintiffs in that case alleged that the cigarette manufacturers designed their product negligently and should not have put them into the stream of commerce; they should have sold light cigarettes only (i.e., cigarettes that are lower in tar and nicotine). In finding that the plaintiffs failed to make out a prima facie case at trial, the Court of Appeals wrote that "here, plaintiffs presented evidence from which a jury could find that light cigarettes--cigarettes containing significantly lower levels of tar and nicotine--are 'safer' than regular cigarettes, but they did not show that cigarettes from which much of the tar and nicotine has been removed remain 'functional.' The function of a cigarette is to give pleasure to a smoker; plaintiffs have identified no other function. Plaintiffs made no attempt to prove that smokers find light cigarettes as satisfying as regular cigarettes--indeed, it is virtually uncontested that they do not. Both regular and light cigarettes are available on the market, and the enhanced dangers that come from smoking regular cigarettes are well known, but large numbers of consumers continue to prefer regular cigarettes." (11 NY3d at 550.)