Claudio Rodrigues Bernhardt v. Philip Morris

Claudio Rodrigues Bernhardt v. Philip Morris, No. 0000051-90.2002.8.19.0210, Oitava Câmara Civil do Tribunal de Justiça do Rio de Janeiro [8th Civil Chamber of the Court of Justice of Rio de Janeiro] (2011).
Download Judgment: English Portuguese
Country: Brazil
Region: Americas
Year: 2011
Court: Oitava Câmara Civil do Tribunal de Justiça do Rio de Janeiro (8th Civil Chamber of the Court of Justice of Rio de Janeiro)
Health Topics: Controlled substances, Tobacco
Human Rights: Right to health, Right to life
Tags: Compensation, Passive smoking, Second-hand smoke, Smoking, Tobacco control, Tobacco regulation

The plaintiff, Claudio Rodrigues, filed a lawsuit against the tobacco company, Souza Cruz, seeking damages for the death of his spouse, alleging that was caused by consumption of the tobacco products produced by Souza Cruz. The plaintiff argued that his spouse had been influenced into consuming the tobacco products by misleading advertisements that portrayed healthy and athletic people smoking.

The lower court dismissed the case and the plaintiff appealed to the higher court. The higher court decided in favor of the plaintiff, based on paragraph 4 of article 220 of the Federal Constitution of Brazil and Resolution 54/2008, which was issued in compliance with that same article. The court, acknowledging that even though the Resolution have been issued after the consumer had acquired the habit of using tobacco products and that the company could not have been held liable at the time, the Constitution as a whole is protective of the rights to life, dignity, protection in commercial relations and health. The court concluded that the company had the duty of acting in good faith and disclosing information on the side effects of its products if it planned on having them commercialized, regardless of the year this took place. The court ordered Philip Morris to pay the plaintiff damages.

The Court found the defendant liable for the health problems brought upon the plaintiffs spouse as a consequence of the consumption of the company's tobacco products. The court based its opinion on articles 1, 5 and 196 that protect fundamental human rights in the Federal Constitution of Brazil.  The court found that despite the issuance of Resolution have ocorred after the plaintiff's spouse started smoking, by the Constitution the company had to act in good faith and respect and observe these fundamental rights.