Gwynn’s widow, son and daughter filed their case against the company in San Diego Superior Court during May 2016 in an effort to hold the company responsible “for killing a baseball legend and a wonderful human being,” according to the suit.
The family claims the Padre outfielder was targeted to use the smokeless tobacco that caused the cancer that led to his death.
The suit — which seeks unspecified damages — alleges the tobacco industry induced Gwynn to begin using smokeless tobacco in the late 1970s when he was a star at San Diego State University.
According to the lawsuit, Gwynn used as many as two cans of smokeless tobacco per day, which is equivalent to smoking four or five packs of cigarettes daily.
In the San Diego Superior Court lawsuit, Gwynn’s family alleges that the tobacco industry chose the former Mr. Padre specifically because it was trying to market its product to black consumers, and that it intentionally misled Gwynn to use the product.
Gwynn used smokeless tobacco for 31 years, and admitted an addiction when he tried to stop using it.
He had multiple surgeries on his neck to remove an abscess and a tumor and died from salivary gland cancer in 2014 at the age of 54.
The U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company has responded to the lawsuit, saying Gwynn was “warned or otherwise made aware of the alleged risks of using smokeless tobacco products.”
Although smokeless tobacco was once part of baseball culture, it’s now banned for use on the field by major league players who debuted after 2016.