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Civil Warriors: The Legal Siege on the Tobacco Industry Paperback – December 4, 2001

3.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A rollicking tour behind the scenes of the tobacco wars, this captivating account reads like a true-crime thriller, complete with unforgettable characters and fast-paced drama. At the center of the action is Ron Motley, a handsome multimillionaire attorney who conducted class-action lawsuits in five states against cigarette makers. His thrill for the hunt is matched only by his monster ego and his use of outrageous metaphors, delivered in a South Carolina drawl. (His verdict for one particularly ineffective assistant: She's "as useless as tits on a bull.") There's the Philip Morris researcher who commits suicide by ingesting liquid nicotine, setting off a round of soul-searching among her fellow scientists; and there's "Deep Cough," code name for the manager at R.J. Reynolds who leaks information about the tobacco manufacturer's secret manipulation of nicotine to addict smokers. Sprinkled throughout are death threats, stolen documents, secret European laboratories, and wiretaps. Who would have thought that tobacco trial history and legislation could be so thrilling? Dan Zegart, who has written for Ms. and The Nation, spent five years traveling with Motley and his merry gang of supporters to deliver this colorful eyewitness account. The result is an impressive, convincing case against the tobacco industry that's straightforward and free of histrionics. If you enjoyed The Insider, the 1999 movie about a whistleblower at Brown & Williamson Tobacco, or followed the nasty internal battle at CBS over 60 Minutes's efforts to report the story, then you'll be overwhelmed by Civil Warriors. The Insider is but a chapter in this complex, comprehensive history. --Jodi Mailander Farrell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A freewheeling and engrossing history of tobacco litigation, Zegart's report highlights flamboyant South Carolina lawyer Ron Motley, who won $33 billion in judgments against tobacco companies between 1994 and 1999. Zegart, who has written articles for Ms. and the Nation, spent five years traveling with Motley as the irascible, heavy-drinking millionaire attorney prepared or conducted major class-action lawsuits in five states. The result is an eyewitness account of the siege of the tobacco industry waged by Motley, other high-rolling product-liability lawyers and various state attorney generals, who formed an effective counterforce against the hitherto impregnable citadel of tobacco. Full of great boardroom and courtroom drama, this well-researched book reads like a spy novel or an X-Files episode. Zegart goes deep inside the tobacco companies' research labs, where biomedical scientists knew by the 1960s how addictive and lethal nicotine is and how carcinogenic cigarettes are. He details secret experiments on human guinea pigs; tobacco company whistle-blowers who were fired, blackballed or sent death threats; a clandestine Big Tobacco fund that subsidized research projects that aimed to cast doubt on the deadliness of cigarettes; and Philip Morris's systematic purge of the respected scientists it had hired to make cigarettes safer (since such work proved the company knew its ordinary cigarettes were hazardous). Zegart's damning indictment of the industry's massive 40-year disinformation campaign is persuasive, though, as he notes, these lawsuits and the 1998 industrywide settlement have hardly made a dent in Big Tobacco's profitability or momentum. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (December 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385319363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385319362
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Civil Warriors reads like a Grisham legal thriller, but it's non-fiction. That makes it much more important than any novelist's fantasies. The lead character may be sympathetic to some, not to others, but there's no question he's an amazing character. However, readers who are fixated on Ron Motley's story, and the greediness of some big-time trial lawyers, miss the other interesting layers of Mr. Zegart's book. The second lead character, for instance, offers a dramatic, not to mention refreshing contrast to Motley. The story of Cliff Douglas is like that of Morris Dees. He takes on big tobacco with little in the way of resources and at huge personal risk, but succeeds in driving them up the wall, and costing them billions, by quietly locating industry whistleblowers and exposing the truth in explosive front page news stories. The tales told of the whistleblowers themselves, including the mysterious "Deep Cough," Victor DeNoble and others are nothing short of amazing. The book grippingly describes their acts of bravery and conscience. I was invigorated and inspired by their stories, and I think others will be too.
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By A Customer on February 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books on a legal subject that I've read in many years. Readers who are looking for a squeaky clean hero in Ron Motley miss the point - - or are too mentally numb to get it. Zegart is refreshingly open about the faults of Motley, his merry band of plaintiff's lawyers and the global settlement they hammered out with the industry. The book's brilliance lies in the way gadfly Cliff Douglas is used as a foil to highlight everything that's wrong with Motley's big lawsuit approach. And Zegart has made the tale of a bunch of lawyers going after the cigarette industry truly fun, filled it with unusual and memorable characters, both major and minor, and plenty of drama - - no mean feat. The book will stay with you long after you've finished it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating read that weaves medicine, law, business, hard-charging human behavior, and high stakes into a "can't put it down" story. Incredibly well researched. Sad and quite telling to think of all the executive management team meetings held by RJR and
Philip Morris to plan their strategy to maintain unmatched profit margins while beating back any inquiries into health issues,
tobacco, and nicotine.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent accounting of a little-known but impactful piece of American legal history. The writing keeps things interesting the whole way through while sticking very close to facts. If you like the John Grisham style of legal thriller, but want a true story, this book is it.
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Format: Hardcover
Readers will find this easy-to-read book more or less useful depending on the viewpoints and preparation they bring to it. I recommend it to everyone as a quick read that will fuel whatever side of the arguments the reader favors.
The author focuses on litigators who tried to hold tobacco companies responsible for some of the harms from which the companies [and governments] have profited. Many of those litigators were flush with money derived from suits over asbestos or other faulty products, so this book features the swashbuckling lawyering familiar from the plaintiffs' attorney in A CIVIL ACTION. If the reader stereotypes lawyers as greedy parasites, that reader will find ample examples in this book. On the other hand, readers open to the idea that little folks sometimes get something resembling justice through lawsuits or not at all may regard the trial lawyers as the last hope for many underdogs -- not perfect by any means, but better than no champions at all.
Some litigators were motivated by other values than money or in addition to money, so the reader whose mind has not been poisoned against all lawyers will find attorneys acting on principles or ideals.
Readers unaware of the secrets and misbehavior of the tobacco companies should probably read about those companies in greater detail elsewhere, but this book provides a deft summary of intimidation, perjury, junk science, public relations, and other corporate viciousness.
Readers who emphasize that Big Tobacco deals a legal drug that users are free to reject will find little sympathy for that view in this book, but they will find ample evidence of the misbehavior of critics of Big Tobacco.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book on many levels. It offers tremendous insight not only into the past misconduct of tobacco but also the legal framework -- be it plaintiffs' lawyers or AGs -- that sought to take big tobacco down (the legal history is particularly great). The insider's view of one of the foremost plaintiffs' lawyers in the country is particularly worthwhile: the author paints a very compelling figure who one does not know whether to worship or pity. Nevertheless, the book is probably 50-75 pages too long as it tends to drone on after the main events have already concluded. A postscript detailing the current state of tobacco regulation and litigation would also be worthwhile. That said, the book is definitely worth a read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing and passionately written book that describes one of the biggest social and legal stories of the last century. From describing colorful characters and seminal cases to relaying the human tragedy of the industry's stranglehold on our society Dan Zegart's Civil Warriors is a must read. This book is both educational and gripping.
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