WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine was not the legal cause of the death by lung cancer of a Florida man, jurors in a Florida courtroom concluded Oct. 17, in what marked a win for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Cynthia McFall Ridley v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2011-CA-005250, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two Native American tribes in New York asked the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 9 to grant certiorari to decide how the New York Indian Law applies to the state’s attempt to collect taxes on cigarettes sold on an Indian reservation to nontribal members (Eric White, et al. v. Barbara D. Underwood, et al., No. 18-297, U.S. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Legislature’s adoption of the Daubert standard involved procedural rules properly within the scope of the court’s powers, and an appeals court improperly applied it to exclude expert testimony relied on in an $8 million judgment against asbestos and tobacco companies, a majority of the Florida Supreme Court said Oct. 15 (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration submitted a proposed expedited rulemaking timeline on Oct. 5 for publishing new graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements by May 2021 in response to a federal judge’s order, claiming that the proposed timeline would result in the issuance of a final rule six months sooner than a timeline previously provided to the court (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al v. United States Food and Drug Administration, No. 16-cv-11985, D. Mass.).
BOSTON — A Massachusetts jury hearing a rare trial involving both asbestos and tobacco defendants on Oct. 12 faulted one of the three defendants and hit that tobacco company with $13.1 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages for a man’s lung cancer (Louis Summerlin, et al. v. Philip Morris, USA, et al., No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
MIAMI — A Florida jury on Oct. 11 found that although a three-pack-a-day smoker was addicted to cigarettes and the addiction was the legal cause of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a wrongful death action by his widow is untimely (Carlos Ortiz v. Philip Morris Inc., et al., No. 2008-000847-CA-01, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BOSTON — A Massachusetts jury began deliberations on Oct. 8 after it heard closing arguments about addiction, choice and the state of the art regarding friction brake products in a rare lung cancer case involving both tobacco and asbestos defendants (Louis Summerlin, et al. v. Philip Morris, USA, et al., No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Florida federal judge on Oct. 3 ruled that the widow of a longtime smoker may continue to pursue punitive damages in her Engle progeny lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc., ruling that a notice filed by the two cigarette makers seeking to invoke a Florida statute that limits a defendant’s exposure to punitive damages “is not ripe for decision” (Eddie O. Starbuck v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 09-cv-13250, M.D. Fla., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171171).
LAKELAND, Fla.— A Florida appellate court on Sept. 28 affirmed a $21.5 million jury award for damages to the widow of a man who died from cancer caused by smoking cigarettes made by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Barbara Jean Johnston, No. 2D17-1702, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 13840).
NEW YORK — In a Sept. 26 decision, a New York federal judge rejected allegations by the city of New York and the New York attorney general that FedEx Freight Inc. and FedEx Ground Package System Inc. knowingly shipped unstamped cigarettes in violation of various federal and state laws (New York, et al. v. FedEx Ground Package System Inc., et al., No. 17-5183, S.D. N.Y., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165807).
LAKELAND, Fla. — A Florida appellate court on Sept. 28 affirmed a jury’s $18 million award for compensatory and punitive damages to the widow of a smoker (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Marlene Nally, No. 2D16-4024, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 13846).
MIAMI — Although denying an award of punitive damages on Sept. 26, a Florida jury on Sept. 25 awarded the wife of a lung cancer victim $2.4 million in compensatory damages in connection with the loss of her husband (Brenda Chadwell v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2010CA17931, Fla. Cir., 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
SAN FRANCISCO — California cannot obtain injunctive relief under its unfair competition law (UCL) claim against a member of an Indian tribe for selling untaxed cigarettes from her reservation home, but the woman can be enjoined from selling cigarettes in violation of the state’s cigarette fire safety and Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) directory laws, a state appeals panel held Sept. 25 (The People ex rel. Xavier Becerra v. Ardith Huber, No. A144214, Calif. App., 1st Dist., 4th Div., 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 855).
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A defendant may challenge whether an asbestos lung cancer plaintiff qualifies as a smoker, after which a judge must determine if the term applies, and if it does, whether the plaintiff met the increased burden for such plaintiffs, a majority of Ohio’s Supreme Court held Sept. 27 (Bobby Turner, et al. v. Union Carbide Corp., et al., No. 17-0004, Ohio Sup.).
HARTFORD, Conn. — Allegations of unconstitutionality surrounding a Connecticut law that revokes a license to sell tobacco products when a tobacco manufacturer is unable to reconcile nationwide sales with federal interstate shipping reports were rejected Sept. 26 by a Connecticut federal judge (Grand River Enterprises Six Nations Ltd. v. Kevin B. Sullivan, Commissioner of Revenue Services, No. 16-1087, D. Conn., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165114).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appeals court erred when it created a bright-line cap on the amount of noneconomic damages available to adult, financially independent children who prevail on wrongful death claims in Engle progeny cases, a divided Florida Supreme Court ruled Sept. 20 (Gwendolyn E. Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC17-563, Fla. Sup., 2018 Fla. LEXIS 1703).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. on Sept. 18 were ordered by a Florida jury to pay $1 million to a plaintiff for the loss of his mother’s companionship following her death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Marc Simon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al., No. 2007-CV-027976, Fla. 17th. Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
MIAMI — Jurors empaneled in Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County on Sept. 18 awarded an Engle progeny plaintiff $6.5 million in connection with her claim that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. conspired to conceal the effects of smoking from her father (Hanifah Harewood v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 07-46331-CA-02, Fla. Cir., 11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
MIAMI — In what it deemed an issue of first impression, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal on Sept. 12 concluded that the phrase “[a]ll Florida citizens and residents” as it appears in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Engle, 672 So. 2d 39, 40 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (Engle I), requires a showing that at the time of manifestation or diagnosis of a smoking-related disease, a decedent must have resided in or been a citizen of Florida to qualify as an Engle class member (Elsa Chacon v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 3D16-2330, Fla. App. 3rd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 12792).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Supreme Court intervention is needed to correct a New York appeals court’s decision allowing the state to collect taxes on cigarettes sold on an Indian reservation to nontribal members because the ruling goes against state law and an 1842 treaty, a tribal member with a cigarette sales business tells the high court in a Sept. 4 petition for certiorari (Eric White, et al. v. Barbara D. Underwood, et al., No. 18-297, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3252).