The common law wife of a man who died of lung cancer has filed a civil lawsuit against the nation's largest tobacco company, accusing it of engaging in a deceptive advertising campaign designed to get people to smoke, including those in Alaska villages.
In a complaint filed in Bethel Superior Court, Delores Hunter of Marshall accuses Philip Morris USA Inc. and its parent company, Altria Group Inc., of making and marketing cigarettes even though they knew the products were addictive and caused cancer.
Hunter is the court-appointed personal representative of Benjamin Francis' estate. The lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 on behalf of the estate.
The trial is scheduled to begin this week.
Francis died of lung cancer in December 2004 in Marshall after enduring "great pain and suffering," according to the complaint. It says he favored Marlboro brand cigarettes, made by Philip Morris, which is headquartered in Richmond, Va.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2006, also names the Alaska Commercial Co., an Anchorage-based company that sells cigarettes in rural Alaska.
Francis smoked cigarettes manufactured and sold by Philip Morris for most of his life, the complaint says.
"He was extremely attracted to the Marlboro advertising and the promotion of its product as one to be used by strong, healthy, independent young men living in wide open spaces," the complaint says.
Francis smoked Marlboro cigarettes even though the companies knew they caused cancer and actually promoted them as being safe and beneficial to users, the complaint says.
Steven Tervooren, a lawyer in Anchorage representing Philip Morris USA, was not available for comment Monday. Both the Alaska Commercial Co. and Hunter's lawyer, Don Bauemeister, did not immediately return calls Monday.
Radio station KYUK ( http://bit.ly/qkfMoP) first reported on the lawsuit.
Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org