TAMPA, Fla. — Following a seven-day trial, a jury empaneled in the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, Fla., on Dec. 7 returned a verdict in favor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which was accused by a son of concealing the dangers of smoking from his mother (George Ellis v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 10-CA-016308, Fla. 13th Jud. Cir., Hillsborough Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s Supreme Court on Dec. 6 declined to rehear its decision rejecting the Daubert standard and reinstating an $8 million judgment against an asbestos company and its tobacco company co-defendant (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
RALEIGH, N.C. — The acquisition by Reynolds American Inc. of Lorillard Inc. did not create a fiduciary duty by British American Tobacco (BAT) PLC to Reynolds’ remaining minority shareholders because BAT did not exercise “actual control” over Reynolds during the negotiations, a divided North Carolina Supreme Court ruled Dec. 7 (Dr. Robert Corwin v. British American Tobacco PLC, No. No. 56PA17, N.C. Sup., 2018 N.C. LEXIS 1035).
LAKELAND, Fla. — In a Dec. 7 holding, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal turned away claims by Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that a plaintiff downplayed a five-year romantic relationship that ended abruptly just before his trial in an Engle progeny case over his late wife’s death from lung cancer (Philip Morris USA Inc, et al. v. John Brown, No. 2D17-3877, Fla. Dist., 2nd App., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 17548).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A cross-appeal by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in which the tobacco company asserted that it was entitled a directed verdict on intentional tort claims in an Engle progeny case was unsuccessful Dec. 6, when Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal instead directed the trial court to reinstate the plaintiff’s full compensatory damage award (Elizabeth Marsh v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 4D17-1751, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 17453).
MIAMI — In a per curiam affirmance issued Dec. 5, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal left intact a summary judgment that two purported Engle progeny cases are barred by the statute of limitations because two plaintiffs who previously opted out of the Engle class attempted to opt back in after the window for readmission had closed (Janice S. Tidwell, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., Nos. 3D17-1920, 3D17-1916, Fla. Dist., 3rd App., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 17360).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A tobacco company overplays separation-of-powers concerns in urging reconsideration of a ruling reinstating Frye, expert testimony and an $8 million asbestos verdict, the plaintiff tells the Florida Supreme Court in a Nov. 9 brief (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
BALTIMORE — The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Nov. 28 rejected a challenge to a Baltimore County Council bill that restricts the hours of operation for hookah lounges, finding instead that the regulation is constitutional (Irvin M. Baddock, et al. v. Baltimore County, Maryland, No. No. 1271, Md. Ct. Special App., 2018 Md. App. LEXIS 1091).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Nov. 19 petition for certiorari, two tobacco companies assert that the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred in upholding the Florida Supreme Court’s mandate that courts must give preclusive effect to the concealment and conspiracy findings of Engle v. Liggett Grp., Inc. in cases that qualify as Engle progeny (R.J. Reynolds et al., v. Cheryl Searcy, No. 18-649, U.S. Sup.).
ATLANTA — In a Nov. 26 holding, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a Florida federal judge’s grant of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) on behalf of Philip Morris USA Inc. on a former smoker’s intentional tort claims and directed the trial court to reinstate a jury’s $20 million punitive damage award on her behalf (Bernard Cote v. Philip Morris USA Inc., Nos. 15-15633, 16-15957, 11th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 33138).
SAN FRANCISCO — The due process rights of an attorney representing a lung cancer sufferer were not violated by a California federal judge who imposed a $1,500 sanction in connection with misconduct by the attorney during a 2016 trial, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 16 (Nikki Pooshs and Gilbert L. Purcell v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 16-15429, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 32507).
MIAMI — On Nov. 26, a jury empaneled before Judge Antonio Arzola of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Dade County awarded a former smoker $2.25 million in punitive damages following Phase II of an Engle progeny case (Paul Rouse v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2017CA017202,11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.).
ORLANDO, Fla. — In a verdict rendered Nov. 15, a Florida jury sided with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on allegations that the cigarette maker bears legal responsibility for the lung cancer death of a Florida man (Stephanie Hochreiter v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2015CA003926, 9th Jud. Cir., Orange Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
LAKELAND, Fla. — In a Nov. 14 ruling, a divided Second District Florida Court of Appeal found that a trial court’s dismissal of a tobacco plaintiff’s case for lack of prosecution must be reversed and remanded for further proceedings because the dismissal was not preceded by an evidentiary hearing to address disputed issues of fact (Estella Purdue v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2D18-0333, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 16261).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In an Oct. 7 opinion, the Fourth District Florida Court of Appeal affirmed a $20 million award of compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the daughter of a smoker, in accordance with a mandate by the Florida Supreme Court (Gwendolyn E. Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 4D14-3867, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 15921).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Despite Crane Co.’s protestations to the contrary, Florida’s Supreme Court adopted the Frye standard and, rather than overlook the issue of whether nonparty defendants should have appeared on an asbestos verdict sheet, simply declined to address the question, a plaintiff told the court on Nov. 9. R.J. Reynolds argues in its petition for rehearing that the court’s ruling threatens to stoke a battle over the separation of powers between the branches of Florida government (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a Nov. 6 ruling, a majority of a First District Florida Court of Appeal panel agreed with a tobacco wrap distributor that a 2016 memorandum issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation constitutes an unadopted rule that cannot be enforced (Grabba-Leaf LLC v. Department of Business and Professional Regulation, No. 1D16-4273, Fla. App, 1st Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 15780).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the third time, jurors on Nov. 7 sided with the tobacco industry in a longstanding dispute over the lung cancer death of a Florida man (Eddie O. Starbuck v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 09-cv-13250, M.D. Fla.).
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A local Rhode Island ordinance that requires stores selling tobacco to obtain a “dealer’s license” and pay an annual $100 fee was rejected as unconstitutional on Oct. 30 by a Rhode Island judge (Sams Food Mart LLC v. Town of Middletown, No. NC-2017-0443, R.I. Super., 2018 R.I. Super. LEXIS 95).
SAN FRANCISCO — In an Oct. 30 holding, a California federal judge found that purported class claims that JUUL Labs Inc. misrepresents the amount of nicotine in its electronic cigarettes are not preempted by the Tobacco Control Act (TCA), 21 U.S.C. § 387 et seq., and may proceed (Bradley Colgate, et al. v. JUUL Labs Inc., No. 18-2499, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185919).