NEW YORK — A New York federal judge on Jan. 15 accepted a joint motion to dismiss allegations by the city of New York and the New York Office of the Attorney General (NYOAG) that FedEx Ground Package System Inc. and FedEx Freight Inc. knowingly delivered untaxed cigarettes from contraband cigarette trafficking businesses to residences and other entities unlicensed to deal cigarettes (New York, et al. v. FedEx Ground Package System Inc., et al., Nos. 13-9173, 14-8985, 17-5183, S.D. N.Y.).
MIAMI — A divided Third District Florida Court of Appeal on Dec. 26 found that although an analogy drawn by counsel for a plaintiff in an Engle progeny case — that the 450,000 deaths from smoking each year are roughly akin to three airline crashes per day— was “provocative and even somewhat inflammatory,” it was nonetheless “mild considered the magnitude of the number of deaths due to smoking” (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Diane Schleider, et al., No. 3D15-1634, Fla. App. 3rd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 18608).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Efforts by cigar retailers and manufacturers to proceed with their challenge to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Deeming Rule” in Texas were unsuccessful Jan. 11, when a federal judge ruled that the case will remain in the District of Columbia (En Fuego Tobacco Shop LLC v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 18-1791, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5177).
OMAHA, Neb. — Although rejecting claims by the Winnebago Tribe that the State of Nebraska violates equal protection laws through regulation of tribal cigarette sales, a Nebraska federal judge on Dec. 19 refused to dismiss the tribe’s related allegation that the escrow requirements of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) violate the Indian commerce clause (HCI Distribution Inc., et al. v. Douglas Peterson, et al., No. 18-173, D. Neb., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213531).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A jury’s November verdict that a Florida man was not addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine — and thus not a member of the Engle class — will stand, a Montana federal judge ruled Jan. 7, visiting in the Middle District of Florida (Eddie O. Starbuck v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 09-cv-13250, M.D. Fla.).
LAKELAND, Fla. — In a Jan. 2 per curiam holding, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal turned away a challenge by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to an April 2017 verdict that required the tobacco company to pay the widow of a lung cancer victim $13.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Mary Lima, No. 2D17-4620, Fla. App. 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 44).
NEW YORK — Allegations that a tobacco company continued advertising its Micronite filters as the safest on the market despite mounting evidence that the asbestos-containing filters posed a hazard to users support a woman’s mesothelioma case and a claim for punitive damages, a New York justice held in an opinion denying summary judgment posted Dec. 19 (Lois Prokocimer v. Avon Products Inc., et al., No. 190030/2017, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
MIAMI — In a verdict rendered Dec. 17, a Florida jury found that although Benson & Hedges Light and Benson & Hedges Ultra Light cigarettes do not feature a defective design, the design employed by Philip Morris USA Inc. was negligent nonetheless (Karen Capone v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2005-10312-CA-24, 11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a Dec. 18 ruling, a majority panel of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal agreed with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that it was entitled to a directed verdict in an Engle progeny case because a plaintiff failed to prove that his wife relied on misstatements about the dangers of smoking to her detriment (R.J. Reynolds v. James Whitmire, No. 1D17-1986, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 18215).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a per curiam ruling issued Nov. 29, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal turned away a challenge by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to a $6 million award issued to the widow of a smoker (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Blanche Fox, No. 4D17-2327, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 17054).
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Following a denial by the U.S. Supreme Court in February of a petition for certiorari by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., a Connecticut federal judge on Dec. 13 found that a cancer patient is entitled to $8 million in punitive damages and $36.4 million in offer-of-judgment interest on top of an existing $7.9 million compensatory damage award (Barbara Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 99-2338, D. Conn., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210199).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a Dec. 12 ruling, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal found that because a plaintiff’s wife’s lung cancer manifested after the Oct. 1, 1999, effective date of the enactment of Section 768.73(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes, a trial court erred in declining to apply the post-1999 version of the law, which bars successive awards of punitive damages against defendants accused of the same conduct in separate proceedings (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Stanley Martin, No. 4D17-574, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 18006).
FORT MYERS, Fla. — In a verdict rendered Dec. 13, a jury empaneled in Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit Court for Lee County awarded a tobacco plaintiff $750,000 in compensatory damages but denied her request for punitive damages (Cynthia Boulter v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2008CA000627, 20th Jud. Cir., Lee Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
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.).