In a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the tobacco industry yesterday, the family of former San Diego Padres outfielder and Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn argues Gwynn was manipulated by the tobacco industry into using smokeless tobacco.
Gwynn died in 2014 from salivary gland cancer. He was a lifelong smokeless tobacco user, who would chew a can and a half to two cans of the stuff every day and did so for more than 30 years.
The lawsuit argues that despite knowing the risks associated with chewing tobacco, the main defendant, Altria, targeted Tony Gwynn as part of an effort to market smokeless tobacco to groups like college kids, baseball players, or young black men. While the suit does not specify damages, it does call for a jury trial to determine whether the tobacco companies are liable for Gwynn’s death.
What are the legal forces pulling at both sides of this case? Does the Gwynn family have a leg to stand on or will the tobacco companies prevail? Is this likely to make it to a jury trial or will the case ultimately be settled?
Richard Daynard, University Distinguished Professor of Law and president of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University
Jim Copland, senior fellow and director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute