WASHINGTON, D.C. — Whether an Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products hinges on the interpretation of an 1855 treaty, which is the U.S. Supreme Court’s task in another case that awaits a decision, so the company’s petition for a writ of certiorari in its fight against a $57.9 million judgment against it should be held until the other case is decided, the company says in its petition, which was docketed Jan. 29 (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup.).
MIAMI — In a verdict rendered Jan. 28, a Florida jury rejected allegations of wrongful death levied against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. by the daughter of a Florida woman who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema (Denise Marie Gaboury v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2007-CA-46351, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE
DADE CITY, Fla. — A Florida jury in the midst of phase 2 of an Engle progeny case did not assess punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., in light of a Jan. 22 announcement that the tobacco company reached a settlement with a widower whom jurors awarded $2 million in compensatory damages four days earlier (Daniel Kelley v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2017CA002490, 6th Jud. Cir., Pasco Co.).
BOSTON — A trial is currently under way in a Massachusetts Superior Court following a denial Dec. 18 of assertions by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that it is entitled to summary judgment on a son’s claim that the tobacco manufacturer is responsible for the 2016 lung cancer death of his mother (Timothy Warshafsky v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. SUCV2016-02691-BLS1, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co., Business Litigation Session).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 16 announced that it will not revisit its November affirmance of sanctions entered by a California federal judge in underlying tobacco litigation (Nikki Pooshs and Gilbert L. Purcell v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 16-15429, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 1456).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A decade after a Florida woman sued Philip Morris USA Inc., and two years after her death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a $27 million judgment was entered on her behalf on Jan. 16 (Bernard Cote v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 09-14157, M.D. Fla.).
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.