Dunn and Wiley v. R.J. Reynolds Holdings Corp. et al.

A nonsmoking nurse who worked for 17 years at a Veterans Administration Hospital died at age 57 of lung cancer.  Her husband sued a group of tobacco companies, claiming that her exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke from her patients at the hospital killed her.  The complaint alleges that the cigarette companies were negligent in issuing a “defective” product and that they knew that smoking could cause health problems for nonsmokers as well as smokers.  See “Man Sues over Wife’s Death,” Louisville Courier-Journal, June 3, 1993, B3; and Kueterman, G., “Cigarette Industry Faces Two Indiana Legal Battles; Addiction, Secondhand Smoke Basis for Lawsuits,” The Indiana Lawyer, December 14, 1994, 1.

On December 5, 1995, the Supreme Court of Indiana ruled, in RJR Nabisco Corp., et al. v. Dunn and Wiley, 657 N.E.2d 1220, 1995 Ind. LEXIS 172, that the trial will take place in Delaware County, IN, where the lawsuit was originally filed.  The tobacco companies appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, arguing that the trial should take place in Hamilton County, where the plaintiff/co-administrator Craig Dunn resides.  A rehearing was denied on February 26, 1996.  The trial began on February 9, 1998.  See “Tobacco Firms Face Second-hand Smoke Suit,” Boston Globe, February 8, 1998, A35; “Tobacco Companies Face Secondhand Smoke Trial,” USA Today, February 9, 1998, 3A; “Secondhand Smoke Addressed in Separate Suits,” The Legal Intelligencer, February 10, 1998, 4; “Potential Jurors Gather for Secondhand Smoke Trial,” Orlando Sentinel, February 10, 1998, A6; O’Neill, J., “Widower Testifies on His Bond with Wife; Secondhand Smoke Killed Her, He Says,” Indianapolis Star, February 11, 1998, A4; O’Neill, J., “Man Tells Jury About Wife’s Life and Death; Testimony Begins in Lawsuit Against Tobacco Companies that Claims Secondhand Smoke Caused Woman’s Cancer,” Indianapolis Star, February 12, 1998, C1; O’Neill, J., “Attorneys in Lawsuit Haggle Over Evidence; Lawyers for Tobacco Companies Question Pertinence of Documents Admitted in Secondhand Smoke Case,” Indianapolis Star, February 14, 1998, C1; Olson, S., “Issue of Secondhand Smoke Under Way in Muncie,” The Indiana Lawyer, February 18, 1998, 3; “Nurses Testify About Smoke Residue at Veterans Hospital,” Patriot Ledger, February 21-22, 1998, 7; Grant, A., “Lawyers Prepare for Third Week in Secondhand-Smoke Trial,” Louisville Courier-Journal, February 22, 1998, 1B; Dieter, M., “Wigand Testifies in Muncie Smoking Lawsuit; Objections Limit the Scope of His Statements,” Louisville Courier-Journal, February 27, 1998, 1B; Santiago, F., “A Controversial Stand?  Medical Examiner to Be Witness for Tobacco Firms,” Des Moines Register, March 5, 1998, 1; “Tobacco Employee Says Smoking Can Be Deadly,” Orlando Sentinel, March 14, 1998, A20; Hwang, S., “Secondhand-Smoke Lawsuit Is Close to Reaching Jury,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 1998, B4; and Hedges, C., “Secondhand-smoke Case Goes to Jury in Indiana,” USA Today, March 19, 1998, 4A.

On March 19, 1998, the six-person jury returned a verdict for the defendants.  See Marshall, S., “Jury: Nonsmoker’s Death Not Tobacco Firms’ Fault,” USA Today, March 20, 1998, 1A; “Jury Rejects Secondhand Smoke Claim in Indiana,” Boston Globe, March 20, 1998, A12; Dieter, M., “Indiana Jury Rejects Suit Over Smoking, Plaintiffs Secondhand Smoke Killed Woman,” Louisville Courier-Journal, March 20, 1998, 1A; “Jury Rejects Suit Blaming Secondhand Smoke in Nurse’s Death,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 20, 1998, A8; Hwang, S., “Jury Finds Tobacco Firms Not Liable in a Pivotal Secondhand-Smoke Case,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 1998, A3, A4; and Dieter, M., “Impact of Wiley Case Argued, Tobacco Industry Sees Other Wins, but Foes Disagree,” Louisville Courier-Journal, March 21, 1998, 1A.

Plaintiff’s filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the “verdict of the jury was against the weight of the evidence presented at trial.”  The Plaintiff also argued that the trial judge’s ruling inadmissible any evidence of Wiley’s workers’ compensation claim affected the verdict.  The motion was denied (Barnet, J.)  See Solida, C., “Judge Denies Request in Secondhand-smoke Case; Motion to Correct Errors,” Indiana Lawyer, May 27, 1998, 12.

Dunn and Wiley v. R.J. Reynolds Holdings Corp. et al., No.18DO1-9305-CT-06, (Delaware Superior Court, IN), 8.2 TPLR 3.132 (1993).