We here at Philly Mag see a lot of personal injury lawsuits rolling through the local courts, but we don’t remember the last time we saw somebody suing big tobacco. For $50 million. And then there’s the fact that the guy suing is a registered sex offender.
Northeast Philadelphia resident Ted McCracken has filed a personal injury lawsuit against tobacco conglomerate R.J. Reynolds, along with other cigarette companies and executives, seeking at least $50 million in damages.
McCracken says he started smoking when he was 15, one to two packs of cigarettes daily. His favorite brands were Kool, Newport, and TOP tobacco, the kind you roll yourself.
These days, McCracken is 64 years old. He says he was recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (better known as COPD), asthma, and emphysema, all conditions that can be caused by cigarette smoking. And he plainly blames his ailments on nearly 50 years of cigarette use.
McCracken’s lawsuit delves into the sordid history of the tobacco industry’s deception of the American people and details Big Tobacco’s infamous and laughable claims before Congress in 1994 that cigarettes are not addictive.
You may remember the tobacco companies reaching a settlement in 1998 in the face of growing criticism and lawsuits. In the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, as it’s known, Big Tobacco agreed to pay out $206 billion to cover states’ future health costs related to smoking and to educate the public.
But that settlement doesn’t mean that you can’t get cash out of tobacco companies, even if you’ve continued to smoke years after you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s bad for you.
In 2013, a Florida jury awarded an ex-smoker diagnosed with COPD more than $12 million in his lawsuit against Big Tobacco. Earlier this year, an appeals court told two tobacco companies to pay $35 million to a man who had two double-lung transplants.
But fighting the tobacco industry is no easy or quick task and doing so without a lawyer, as McCracken has chosen to do, is pretty much impossible. We asked McCracken why he doesn’t have a big plaintiff’s attorney representing him, and he told us, “I don’t want to talk about that.”
It could be that McCracken isn’t exactly the ideal client. You see, McCracken is a convicted rapist, and he’ll be on the Megan’s Law registry as a Tier 3 sex offender (the worst kind) for the rest of his life.
“I don’t want to talk about that, either,” he tells us.
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