Settlement in Nation’s Longest Running Tobacco Lawsuit

After 20 years, the family of a New Jersey man who died from a smoking-related illness has reached a settlement with cigarette makers, the Newark Star-Ledger reported May 17.

Peter Rossi of Westfield smoked up to four packs a day for 40 years. When he died in 1984 of cancer at age 55, his three daughters, ex-wife, and second wife sued the tobacco companies. The case was finally settled in April.

The lawsuit, which claimed the cigarette makers produced a defective, unsafe product and inadequately informed consumers about the dangers of smoking, triggered the release of internal tobacco-company documents which have since been used in other individual tobacco lawsuits.

The terms of the agreement were not released. The lawsuit sought $358,000 in lost income for Rossi, $10,000 for medical and funeral costs, and punitive damages. Liggett Group Inc., was the only defendant named in the settlement. R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and the parent company of Lorillard were removed as defendants because Rossi smoked their brands after warning labels were placed on the products.

“It feels like a huge victory,” said Susan Haines, Rossi’s oldest daughter. “There’s been a whole change of consciousness. If my father had a small part to play in contributing to that, that’s a good thing.”