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Consumer Warning

Conte & Giacomini Avvocati > Generale  > Consumer Warning

Consumer Warning

Pionieri del settore, C & G è stato il primo studio legale in Europa a sollevare la questione sulle sostanze nocive contenute negli alcolici e a ravvisare la necessità di disporre di etichette di avvertimento sulle bottiglie per aumentare la consapevolezza del consumatore circa i danni che tali sostanze possono causare.

On July 18th 2014, a court in Pensacola Florida awarded an astonishing $23 billion dollars in punitive damages to Cynthia Robinson in a wrongful death suit; the highest ever awarded in a suit stemming from the Engle v. Liggett Group class action .
Ms. Robinson’s husband, Michael Jonson Sr. a lifelong smoker, contracted lung cancer and passed away in 1996. Robinson was once part of the historic Engle v. Liggett Group class action, which was awarded $145 billion dollars in punitive damages, only to have the Florida Supreme Court overturn the ruling.
Nonetheless the “Engel III” verdict was successful in creating a breakthrough in exposing the dangers of cigarette smoke and attributing liability to tobacco companies who knowingly occulted the dangers of cigarettes. As a matter of fact it paved the way for class members to file individual suits against cigarette manufacturers within one year of its mandate, while allowing the Phase I findings to have “res judicata effect” in all subsequent trials.
As a result, in 2008 Ms. Robinson filed an individual suit against tobacco company R.J. Reynolds which culminated with the court awarding her and, her late husband’s two sons from a previous marriage, $16 million in compensatory damages, in addition to punitive damages.
Ms. Robinson’s attorney, Willie Gary commented the verdict “RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards. As a result of their negligence, my client’s husband suffered from lung cancer and eventually lost his life. We hope that this verdict will send a message to RJ Reynolds and other big tobacco companies that will force them to stop putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy.”
Of different opinion is, Reynolds’ VP and assistant general counsel Jeffrey Raborn who said that the company plans to appeal the decision and verdict, deeming the decision “far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness” and stating that “R.J. Reynolds is confident that the court will follow the law and not allow this runaway verdict to stand.”
We don’t know yet if the verdict will stand in appeal or not, but for know this ruling has opened a door for all those awaiting judgment on similar cases.

Aside from the obvious astonishing economical aspect and symbolical meaning, this verdict is particularly relevant because it imposes tobacco companies to warn the public about the dangers of cigarette smoke; failing to do so would result, as it has, in heavy penalties from the Courts.

Information about the effects that a certain substance can have on your health are essential to reducing diseases.
Unfortunately, this kind of information seems to lack on certain products that are indeed harmful.

Pioneering the field, C&G was the first law firm in Europe to raise the issue about harmful substances contained in alcohol and the need to have warning labels on bottles to increase public awareness of the harm that they may cause.

In 2011, C&G sent a claim on behalf of “Associazione Nazionale Utenti di Servizi Pubblici” – “Assoutenti” – to various branches of the European Commission, to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), to the President of the European Parliament, to the Italian Health Ministry and to the Italian Ministry for Economic Development illustrating the health risks deriving from the use of alcohol and asking them to pass a law compelling alcohol producers to warn consumers against the hazards of their product by writing precise and adequate information on labels.
The report contained studies that showed a correlation between the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the onset of certain types of cancer.
As a matter of fact the International Agency for Cancer Research – IARC – has deemed alcoholic beverages to rank in Group 1 of the carcinogenic substances, such as cigarette smoke.
Furthermore, it showed the discouraging economical impact that the marketing, production and consumption of alcohol is having on public budgets.

There is ample legislation, both National and European, upholding the possibility and need to have clearer warning labels on bottles of alcohol.
Nonetheless, the claim was dismissed, stating, in brief, that there had already been attempts to pass a law regarding this matter and that an agreement had never been reached between the European Commission and the European Parliament.
However, member States were granted the right to regulate the issue through national legislation whose compatibility with European law would be evaluated on a case to case basis by the Commission
Recently, a group of British MPs has proposed a bill that, if accepted, would impose the use of warning labels on alcohol bottles.

We certainly hope that other States will soon follow in what seems to be a fundamental right of the consumer to be fully and clearly informed.

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