'Tillery World' beckons

The Madison County Record Nov. 21, 2004, 5:53pm

For every sound judicial decision (see Judge Daniel Stack) that helps resuscitate its reputation, Madison County sees a new looney lawsuit or two that reminds us why such a mania persists over its “jackpot justice.”

In the latest chapter-- tobacco-consumed plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Tillery has filed personal injury lawsuits (see Page 1) on behalf of two Madison County chain smokers stricken with lung cancer.

Tillery is most famous for engineering a $10.1 billion verdict by Judge Nicholas Byron against Philip Morris in 2003, alleging ‘deceptive advertising.’ The case is currently on appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court.

The kicker this time around is that Tillery blames not only the obligatory tobacco companies but also a local convenience store, Huck’s, that sold his plaintiffs cigarettes.

Nice touch.

That the suing smokers Debra Mills (two packs of Kool Menthols daily for twenty years) and Barbara Sandrowski (two packs of Marlboro Lights daily for seventeen years) believe their gross excess is someone else’s fault is perhaps symptomatic of these litigious times.

We’ve noted time and again on these pages how the concept of personal responsibility continues to take a beating at the Madison County Courthouse.

But off-the-wall lawsuits like these have much more than a conceptual impact on the lives of the rest of us.

Consider that, according to the complaint Huck's should be "liable for any misrepresentations contained on the packages of cigarettes... regardless of whether (Huck’s) actually placed the misrepresentations on the packages.”

That's 'Tillery World,' where Madison County courts would start holding local retailers responsible for the way in which their customers use (or misuse) their legally-sold products.

Might Huck’s and its rivals eventually find themselves in court for selling beer to a future drunk driver or candy to a local who rots his teeth?

We shudder to think of how such a legal principle could negatively affect Madison County’s retail community.

That said, let’s be clear that we’re very sorry that Mills and Sandrowski have lung cancer. They remain in our prayers.

But we are the only ones asking what part of ‘smoking causes lung cancer’ did they not understand?

That explicit warning is expressed clearly in capital letters on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States. But Mills and Standrowski, each of whom smoked two packs per day for some two decades, apparently ignored it.

By our count, Mills ignored it 14,600 times and Standrowski 12,410.

The Madison County Circuit Court should ignore their frivolous lawsuits just as well.

We all want justice. But none of us want to live in Tillery World.

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