RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge in North Carolina on March 30 granted a motion to clarify a previous order as to the adequacy of class counsel in a class action previously settled for $24 million, finding that, contrary to an earlier and now-vacated state court order, plaintiff and defense counsel in the federal case and a competing state court class action did not violate the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct or otherwise engage in unethical conduct (Teresa M. Speaks, et al., v. U.S. Tobacco Cooperative, Inc., No. 12-729, E.D. N.C., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53654).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Trade Commission on April 1 issued an administrative complaint against tobacco company Altria Group Inc. and e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc., alleging that Altria’s $12.8 billion, 35 percent acquisition of Juul eliminated competition in violation of federal antitrust laws (In the Matter of Altria Group/JUUL Labs, No. 9393, FTC).
RICHMOND, Va. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a March 30 letter to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a consolidated appeal of its tobacco product regulations stated that it has filed a request in the underlying district court case seeking a 120-day extension of premarket application deadlines for new tobacco products, including many e-cigarette products, due to delays caused by the novel coronavirus (In re: Cigar Association Of America, et al., No. 19-2130, 4th Cir.).
RICHMOND, Va. — E-cigarette and cigar industry association attorneys in oral arguments on March 18 before a Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel attacked a decision by a federal judge in Maryland that imposed new deadlines on premarket applications for their products, arguing that the decision was outside the judge’s authority and would harm their industries (In re: Cigar Association Of America, et al., No. 19-2130, 4th Cir.).
CINCINNATI — A district court erred when it dismissed an e-liquids manufacturer’s complaint seeking a preliminary injunction against the Food and Drug Administration halting enforcement of a premarket tobacco application deadline for lack of standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the manufacturer tells the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a March 21 appellant brief (Vapor Technology Association, et al. v. U.S. Food And Drug Administration, et al., No. 20-5199, 6th Cir.).
ATLANTA — An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 24 affirmed a trial court’s rulings denying motions for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) and for new trial or remittitur after a jury awarded $41.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a smoker with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), holding that the awards were not excessive or unconstitutional and that the smoker’s lifelong exposure to the tobacco industry’s “misinformation campaign” was sufficient evidence of detrimental reliance to claim fraudulent concealment (Kenneth Kerrivan v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, et al., No. 18-13045, 11th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 9132).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Food and Drug Administration on March 17 issued a new final rule requiring tobacco products and advertisements to include new color graphic health warnings “depicting the negative health consequences of smoking” as of June 2021.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on March 23 reversed and remanded a trial court order denying a motion for additur or a new trial on a zero-damages past pain and suffering award for a smoker who won a lawsuit against a tobacco company in which she claimed that cigarettes caused her chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), ruling that the zero-damages award was “inadequate” as a matter of law based on evidence presented at trial (Myra Rozar v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 18-4029, Fla. App., 1st Dist.).
NEW YORK — While a man produces sufficient product identification testimony, two experts’ opinions ruling out asbestos as a cause of his lung cancer doom the smoker’s lung cancer case, a New York justice held March 17 (Laura Avakian, et al. v. Consolidated Edison of New York, et al., No. 190036/2018, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiffs on March 11 filed two master complaints in the multidistrict litigation against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc., one for personal injury and one for class action claims, both accusing Juul, its founders and board members and Altria Group Inc. of conspiring to sell highly addictive e-cigarette products, marketing them to youth and making false statements to the public and regulators to keep Juul’s products on the market (In Re: Juul Labs, Inc., et al., No. 19-md-2913, N.D. Calif.).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A tobacco company escaped punitive damages on Feb. 19, but earlier in the day the Florida jury hit it with a $12.5 million verdict after it heard that a tobacco company told the public that there was no evidence that smoking was bad for your health even as its own testing and research showed otherwise, sources told Mealey Publications (Snyder v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2008-CV-019467, Fla. Cir., 17th Jud. Cir.).
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida jury on Feb. 18 added $24 million in punitive damages to $2.75 million in compensatory damages for a smoker’s use of and addiction to cigarettes after hearing that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) continued experimenting with ways to make its products more addictive despite knowing about their “unattractive side effects” (Duignan v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 13-010978-CI, Fla. Cir., 6th Jud. Cir.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The widow of a longtime smoker on March 11 filed a corrected brief with the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction over a Third District Florida Court of Appeal panel’s ruling partially reversing a trial court and granting her a new trial on punitive damages for intentional and nonintentional tort claims, arguing that the Third District’s one-page opinion stated no facts and, therefore, is “not subject to review” (Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Stefanny Sommers, etc., No. 20-19, Fla. Sup.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A divided Fourth District Florida Court of Appeal on Feb. 26 affirmed a $3 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. but certified a conflict with two decisions in the First District Court of Appeal over whether concealment or conspiracy claims can be established without evidence of individual and detrimental reliance on statements by tobacco companies (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Jacqueline Burgess, No. 4D18-3014, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 2418).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The daughter of a deceased smoker on Feb. 27 appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, asking it to review a split First District Court of Appeal ruling that reversed a $6.4 million verdict and remanded for new trial, in which the majority found that the trial court erred by not giving the jury a special instruction that it must find that the decedent relied on statements from tobacco companies that concealed or omitted information about the risks of smoking (Linda Prentice, etc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. SC20-291, Fla. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — E-cigarette maker Pax Labs Inc. on March 5 entered an agreement in the Juul multidistrict litigation court to toll applicable statutes of limitations in exchange for the plaintiffs not naming Pax Labs as a defendant in an upcoming MDL master complaint (In Re: Juul Labs, Inc., et al., No. 19-md-2913, N.D. Calif.).
TEXARKANA, Texas — A federal judge in Texas on Feb. 25 granted in part, denied in part and carried in part motions filed by the state of Texas and Philip Morris USA to enforce a 1998 settlement against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR), holding that RJR was still liable for payments under the settlement despite its 2015 sale of four cigarette brands, while leaving the question of the purchaser’s obligations to Texas to the Delaware court currently hearing litigation over the asset purchase agreement (APA) (Texas v. American Tobacco Co., et al., No. 96-91, E.D. Texas).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Feb. 25 released its final biweekly update on e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) cases and deaths, saying updates would end “due to continued declines in new EVALI cases since September 2019, and the identification of vitamin E acetate as a primary cause of EVALI.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Feb. 12, the Florida Supreme Court declined jurisdiction in a petition on behalf of 73 Engle progeny claims, affirming the trial court that dismissed the claims in 2016 after finding that “a dead person cannot file and maintain a lawsuit” (In Re 73 Engle-Related Cases, No. SC18-675, Fla. Sup.).
NEW ORLEANS — A vaping company and manufacturer and a trade association on Feb. 19 appealed to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals their claim that the Food and Drug Administration’s 2016 final rule deeming all products meeting the statutory definition of “tobacco product” to be subject to the Tobacco Control Act was in violation of the nondelegation principle in Article I of the U.S. Constitution (Big Time Vapes Inc. and United States Vaping Association v. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 19-60921, 5th Cir.).