BOSTON — A Boston jury on Sept. 7 heard opening arguments in a rare lung cancer trial involving tobacco and asbestos defendants (Louis Summerlin, et al. v. Philip Morris, USA, et al., No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO OF THE TRIAL AVAILABLE
PENSACOLA, Fla. — In a verdict announced Sept. 7 a Florida jury ordered Philip Morris USA Inc. to pay the widow and children of a smoker $250,000 in noneconomic damages, just over one year after an appeals court found that an initial jury award rendered in the case was too low and the result of “adverse passion and prejudice” (Micah Danielson v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2007-CA-002737, Fla. Cir., 1st Jud. Cir.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BOSTON — In a Sept. 5 grant of summary judgment in favor of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other health organizations, a Massachusetts federal judge compelled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to promulgate a final rule implementing Section 201(a) of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA) (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration, No. 1:16-cv-11985, D. Mass., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150595).
ATLANTA — Pursuant to its holding in Burkhart v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 5 rejected assertions by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris Inc. that their due process rights are violated when courts give preclusive effect to the concealment and conspiracy findings in Engle v. Liggett Grp., Inc. (Cheryl Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 13-15258, 11th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25191).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Efforts by a wrongful death plaintiff to overturn a Florida judge’s order disqualifying the Ferraro Firm from further representing her in litigation against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. were unsuccessful on Sept. 5, when the First District Florida Court of Appeal denied her petition for certiorari (Lue Ethel Russ v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al., No. 1D17-1847, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 12540).
BALTIMORE — In an Aug. 28 memorandum, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association and others urge a Maryland federal judge to reject claims by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the groups lack Article III standing to challenge the “Extension of Certain Tobacco Product Compliance Deadlines Related to the Final Deeming Rule” (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 8:18-CV-883, D. Md.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — An order requiring a tobacco company to produce a list of mesothelioma litigation it faced falls short of requiring an immediate review, a Pennsylvania court held Aug. 30 in quashing an appeal (Bernice M. Steiner, et al. v. Hollingsworth & Vose Co., et al., No. 563 EDA 2018, Pa. Super., 2018 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 3207).
MIAMI — In an Aug. 21 verdict, a Florida jury rejected allegations that cigarettes manufactured and marketed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. are responsible for the laryngeal cancer of a 25-year, two-pack-a-day smoker (Barbara Morales v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2007-016277-CA-01, Fla. Cir., 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In two verdicts rendered Aug. 27, a Florida jury awarded the son of a smoker $7.5 million, one year after a mistrial was declared in the case because of contradictory jury instructions (Michael Olson v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2008-CA-00396, Fla. 4th Jud. Cir., Duval Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
NEW YORK — Deeming the Maryland appellate ruling in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v Stidham, 448 Md. 497, 141 A3d 1 (2016), instructive, a New York judge in an opinion posted Aug. 27 rejected efforts by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to transfer smoking-related allegations by a lung cancer sufferer out of the New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) docket (Stephen Gabris v. 3M Company et al., No. 190259/2017, N.Y. Sup., New York Co., 2018 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3623).
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — In what a public health research and advocacy nonprofit organization estimates are among the largest verdicts ever rendered in individual tobacco litigation, two juries empaneled in the U.S. Virgin Islands Superior Court in four separate verdicts issued in August ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay the children of two parents $113 million, including a $30 million punitive damage award rendered on Aug. 24 (Jevon Gerald v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. ST-10-CV-631, U.S.V.I., Christian Brown v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. ST-10-CV-692, U.S.V.I. Super.).
SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico federal judge overseeing multidistrict litigation over allegations that a cigarette manufacturer and its holding company misled consumers on Aug. 18 ordered the defendants to present a corporate representative for deposition, while also directing plaintiffs to comply with discovery requests in advance of defense depositions (In re: Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Marketing and Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 16-2695, D. Ariz., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140453).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A mistrial was declared in Phase 2 of an Engle progeny case on Aug. 17 by a Florida judge after jurors indicated that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the amount of punitive damages to be awarded to the family of a smoker (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.
HELENA, Mont. — Although conceding that a proposed ballot initiative regarding, among other increases, a $2 tax on cigarettes may contain a “mathematical misstatement,” the Montana Supreme Court on Aug. 15 refused to enjoin the state from putting the question to Montana voters this fall (Montanans Against Tax Hikes, et al. v. Corey Stapleton, Montana Secretary of State, et al., No. OP 18-0455, Mont. Sup., 2018 MT 201).
HONOLULU — A plaintiff previously deemed an “abusive litigant” in Hawaii federal court saw his latest efforts at litigating pro se — this time against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. — thwarted Aug. 16 by a different Hawaii federal judge, who found that the proposed complaint “wholly lacks a cognizable legal theory” (Truman Lee Ketchmark v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, No. 18-79, D. Hawaii, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138767).
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A defendant accused of violating a New York state law designed to set minimum cigarette prices won dismissal of the allegation on Aug. 3 by a New York justice, who found that offering rebates or other incentives to cigarette purchasers is not specifically prohibited by the statute (Amsterdam Tobacco Co. Inc., et al. v. Harold Levinson Associates LLC, No. 502413/18, N.Y. Sup., Kings Co., 2018 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3397).
SAN FRANCISCO — In what it deemed a case of first impression, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 12 affirmed a Washington federal judge’s determination that a tribal manufacturer of tobacco products located on land held in trust by the United States is not entitled to an exemption from the federal tobacco excise tax (United States v. King Mountain Tobacco Co., Nos. 14-36055 16-35607, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 22369).
SAN FRANCISCO — The same day it upheld a Washington federal judge’s determination that a tribal tobacco manufacturer owes the federal government $57.2 million in unpaid excise taxes, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 13 issued an unpublished ruling, which also affirmed a ruling by the same judge in a separate case that the government is owed $6.3 million for violations of a 2004 law known as the tobacco buyout (United States v. King Mountain Tobacco Company Inc., No. 16-35956, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 22400).
TAMPA, Fla. — In a July 25 complaint filed in the 13th Judicial Circuit Court for Hillsborough County, Fla., a recently diagnosed lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patient took aim at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Liggett Group LLC, accusing the cigarette manufacturers of causing his illnesses (Joe Broughton v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 18-CA-007187, Fla. Cir., Hillsborough Co., 13th Jud. Cir.).
MIAMI — In an Aug. 6 complaint filed in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, a plaintiff took aim at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Publix Supermarkets Inc. in connection with the wrongful death of his wife, just two months after her lung cancer diagnosis (Walter Schnitzer, on behalf of the Estate of Deborah Schnitzer, v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2018-026537-CA-01, Fla. Cir., Miami-Dade Co., 11th Jud. Dist.).