Accordingly to multiple reports, deceased Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn’s widow along with Gwynn’s two children have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a San Diego Superior Court against Altria Group Corp – the parent company of Phillip Morris and US Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC – due to Gwynn’s death from oral cancer in 2014.
The lawsuit states that Gwynn began using dipping tobacco at 17 years of age and became a “tobacco junkie who used 1 1/2 to 2 cans of the dipping tobacco every day.”
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages from the company but as NBC Sports pointed out, it will be a difficult task for Gwynn’s family to win.
While Gwynn himself cited his copious tobacco use as the cause of the salivary gland cancer which eventually killed him — and while it makes a lot of intuitive sense to assume that smokeless tobacco use + time = oral cancer — Gwynn’s specific form of cancer, of the parotid gland, is not associated with tobacco use. The gland which developed the cancer was around his ear and there has been no observed link between smokeless tobacco use and cancer of that particular gland, let alone any sort of consensus on the matter.
With that in mind, it seems like a victory for the Gwynn family would set a dangerous precedent for lawsuits against tobacco companies where scientific evidence isn’t necessarily clear.
Still, a settlement is always a possibility as well and it will be interesting to see how this potentially high-profile case plays out of the next few weeks and months.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.