MIAMI — A Florida appellate court on April 10 affirmed a jury verdict that an addiction to cigarettes caused the throat cancer that killed a longtime smoker and, in reversing a directed verdict in the Engle progeny case, remanded for a new trial solely on the amount of punitive damages (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Mirtha Ledo, No. 3D17-2328. Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 5519).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A tobacco company that lost its appeal of a $21 million wrongful death jury award petitioned the Florida Supreme Court on March 28 to review the appellate ruling, saying the divided opinion of the state’s Third District Court of Appeal directly conflicts with decisions of Florida’s high court and the First, Fourth and Fifth districts (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Diane Schleider, as personal representative of the Estate of Andrew Schleider, No. 19-445, Fla. Sup.).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Following a December 2017 decision by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal that ordered a trial on punitive damages, the widow of a smoker on March 19 was awarded $800,000 in an Engle progeny case (Bernice McCall v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2007-CV-036888, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In a March 29 order, a Florida federal judge granted, in part, a motion to review taxation of costs by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and denied a renewed motion for attorney fees by an Engle progeny plaintiff (James Smith Jr. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 09-10048, M.D. Fla., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62747).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — New Food and Drug Administration warnings required in product labeling and advertisements contravene the First Amendment and are arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), tobacco makers and retailers argue in a March 15 motion in federal court in the District of Columbia seeking summary judgment and to make permanent a temporary injunction shielding premium cigars from the new regulations (En Fuego Tobacco Shop LLC, et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 18-1797, D. D.C.).
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. tell a Florida federal court in a March 14 reply brief that a lawsuit brought by two people seeking damages for injuries they say were caused by smoking cigarettes should be dismissed because it is barred by the statute of limitations and fails to adequately state a claim for strict liability or negligence because neither plaintiff is a member of the Engle v. Ligget Group class action (Pamela Bolds, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 5:18-CV-235, N.D. Fla.).
MIAMI — In a verdict rendered April 3, a jury empaneled in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Dade County sided with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., rejecting a plaintiff’s assertion that her coronary artery disease manifested before Nov. 21, 1996 — the cutoff date for membership in the since-decertified Engle class (Mildred Clark v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 08-00231-CA-51, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
ORLANDO, Fla. — On March 28, a Florida jury awarded the children of a Florida woman who died of lung cancer $16 million in punitive damages, one day after awarding $300,000 in survivorship damages (Brinda Coates v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 1997-CA-004541-O, Fla. 9th Jud. Cir., Orange Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
DEDHAM, Mass. — A jury empaneled in the Norfolk County, Mass., Superior Court on March 27 ruled in favor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on claims by the daughter of a smoker that the company breached the implied warranty of merchantability by selling cigarettes that were defectively designed (Julie Lagadimas v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 1582-CV-01474, Mass. Super., Norfolk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida jury on March 22 rendered a phase 2 verdict in an Engle progeny case, awarding the daughter of a smoker $6 million in punitive damages following a $4 million compensatory damages award on March 19 (Deborah Neff v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2007-CV-036745, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
PHILADELPHIA — Although conceding that he made “two descriptive errors” in a February grant of summary judgment to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) and others, a Pennsylvania federal judge on March 20 reaffirmed that his findings were nonetheless proper because a pro se plaintiff “adduced no more than a mere scintilla of evidence” that his alleged injuries were caused by smoking defective cigarettes (Ted A. McCracken v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 17-4495, E.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47137).
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on March 5 awarded $937,500 in an asbestos lung cancer case, apportioning 60 percent of the liability to the plaintiff, 10 percent to tobacco exposure and the remaining to the maker of studio and movie prop equipment and a gun cement company (James and Supranee Godber v. Mole-Richardson Co. Ltd., et al., No. BC663471, Calif. Super., Los Angeles Co.).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Fla. — In a March 20 ruling, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal found that a trial court abused its discretion in allowing a widower to testify, “without limitation,” that his late wife’s initial treating physicians told the couple her primary lung cancer was caused by smoking cigarettes (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Kenneth Gloger, No. 3D18-341, Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 4090).
BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the heels of a February determination that the state of New York may proceed with allegations that two Indian enterprises violated federal and state law by running a contraband cigarette ring, defendants in the case moved March 12 for a stay (New York v. Grand River Enterprises Six Nations, Ltd., et al., No. 14-cv-910, W.D. N.Y.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a verdict rendered March 8, jurors found that negligence by a Florida woman who went on to suffer from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was the legal cause of her death (Shan Frogel, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2007CA023246, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BOSTON — In a March 5 memorandum and order, a Massachusetts federal judge directed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to submit by March 15, 2020, a final rule regarding new graphic and textual health warnings to be placed on cigarette packages and advertisements — more than one year earlier than the date proposed by the agency (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al v. United States Food and Drug Administration, No. 16-cv-11985, D. Mass., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34946).
LAKELAND, Fla. — A Hillsborough County, Fla., judge abused his discretion in failing to excuse a juror who admitted during voir dire that a widow would have “an uphill argument to make” in suing a tobacco company for her husband’s lung cancer, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal ruled May 1 (Judith Pearson v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2D17-3636, Fla. App. 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 3156).
QUINCY, Fla. — In two separate Feb. 26 verdicts, a Florida jury awarded a widow $4 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages following a seven-day tobacco trial (Margaret Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2014CA000337, Fla. 2nd Jud. Cir., Gadsden Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida jury in an Engle progeny case on Feb. 27 returned a punitive damage award of $25 million, topping a $12.5 million award of compensatory damages issued Feb. 22 to the widower of a Florida woman (Richard Mahfuz v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 2007-CV-036743, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
SAN FRANCISCO — On rehearing, a California appeals court panel on Feb. 25 affirmed a summary adjudication order and a permanent injunction entered in favor of the state attorney general halting the on-reservation sale of untaxed cigarettes to the public by a member of an Indian tribe (The People ex rel. Xavier Becerra v. Ardith Huber, No. A144214, Calif. App., 1st Dist., 4th Div., 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 149).