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).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In its Feb. 25 orders list, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a coordinated challenge by the tobacco industry to the longstanding practice by Florida state and federal courts of allowing members of the prospectively decertified Engle class to use generalized findings by the original Engle jury in individual lawsuits against the tobacco industry.
MIAMI — A Dade County jury on Feb. 22 awarded a smoker’s widow $2.5 million in compensatory damages and answered “yes” to the question of whether punitive damages were warranted, but on Feb. 25 awarded her $0 in the second phase of an Engle progeny case (Ruby Holliman v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2017CA002638, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Although a Florida woman was awarded $1 million on Feb. 22 in an Engle progeny case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., jurors deemed her late husband 75 percent responsible for his own death from lung cancer (Kathleen Gafney v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2007CA020540, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a Feb. 13 holding, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal found that a reduction of a compensatory damage verdict to correspond to a smoker’s share of comparative fault must be vacated (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Bertie Thomas, No. 4D17-3040, Fla. App. 4th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 2161).
PHILADELPHIA — In a Feb. 14 holding, a Pennsylvania federal judge granted R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and other defendants summary judgment on claims by a continuing smoker that the tobacco industry’s use of ammoniated ingredients in cigarettes turned him into a nicotine addict (Ted A. McCracken v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 17-4495, E.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24091).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In two motions filed Feb. 13 in Florida federal court, Philip Morris USA Inc. launched an effort to undo an appellate ruling that awarded the estate of a recently deceased Florida woman $27 million (Bernard Cote v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 09-14157, M.D. Fla.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Fourth District Florida Court of Appeal in a Feb. 6 decision agreed with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that a Broward County judge’s ex parte communication with a plaintiff’s attorney about a “hot button issue in tobacco litigation” disqualifies him from presiding over the 12 Engle progeny cases that remain on his docket (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Saundra Alonso, et al., No. 4D18-2444, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 1603).
NEW YORK — A Connecticut federal judge’s dismissal of allegations that Philip Morris USA Inc. violated a state consumer protection law was reversed Feb. 12 by the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Hazel B. Pappas v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 17-3842-cv, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 4177).
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York federal judge on Feb. 11 held that the state of New York plausibly alleges that two Indian enterprises are running a contraband cigarette ring that illegally brings millions of dollars’ worth of cigarettes into New York from Canada, rejecting a magistrate judge’s recommendation to dismiss the state’s claims (New York v. Grand River Enterprises Six Nations, Ltd., et al., No. 14-cv-910, W.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21558).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A docket entry on Feb. 6 indicates the U.S. Supreme Court will consider at its Feb. 22 conference a due process challenge by two tobacco companies ordered to pay a woman $4.34 million in connection with the cancer death of her mother (R.J. Reynolds, et al. v. Cheryl Searcy, No. 18-649, U.S. Sup.).
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A divided Fifth District Florida Court of Appeal on Feb. 7 found that a trial court erred in applying the pre-1999 version of Florida’s punitive damages statute in an Engle-progeny case and not the post-1999 version of the law, which was in effect at the time of a smoker’s death in 2007 (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Mary Sheffield, No. 5D17-2521, Fla. App., 5th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 1837).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Almost six months after a jury deadlocked on the amount of punitive damages owed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to the widow of a smoker, a new jury empaneled in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court for Alachua County, Fla., on Feb. 7 awarded her $13.5 million (Frances Bessent-Dixon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2015-CA-002554, Fla. Cir., Alachua Co., 8th Jud. Dist.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
DETROIT — A divided Michigan Court of Appeals on Feb. 5 affirmed a trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss by two individuals accused of violating the state’s Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) when they transported 3,000 cigarettes without a license (Michigan v. John Francis Davis, No. 341621; Michigan v. Gerald Magnant, No. 341627, Mich. App., 2019 Mich. App. LEXIS 179).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court on Feb. 5 announced that it will not hear an Engle progeny plaintiff’s challenge of a new trial ordered by a district judge who recognized his own error in dismissing prospective jurors before they could be questioned by the defense (Heather Irimi v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2019 Fla. LEXIS 197, Fla. Sup.).
TEXARKANA, Texas — In a Jan. 31 filing in Texas federal court, Philip Morris USA Inc. (PM USA) maintains that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and ITG Brands LLC have failed to make more than $150 million in required payments to the state of Texas following ITG’s $7.1 billion acquisition of the Winston, Kool, Salem and Maverick cigarette brands in 2017 (Texas v. American Tobacco Company, et al., No. 96-91, E.D. Texas).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The wife of a lung cancer victim on Jan. 29 failed to persuade a Florida jury that her husband qualified as a member in the decertified Engle class (Rose Pollari v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 14-001563CA19, Fla. 17th Jud Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BARTOW, Fla. — In a verdict rendered Jan. 25, jurors empaneled in a Florida court rejected assertions of Engle membership by the son-in-law of a smoker who died in 2007 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer (Garold E. Russell v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2010-CA-005234, Fla. 10th Jud. Cir., Polk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.