DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on June 14 reversed a trial court’s order that required R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay the attorney fees, amounting to nearly $4 million including interest, of the widower of a smoker in an Engle progeny case, saying the inclusion of costs related to nontestifying witnesses to determine the legal threshold to trigger payment was in error (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. James Lewis, Nos. 5D17-773, 5D18-3654, Fla. App., 5th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 9314).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. contends in a June 4 answer brief on jurisdiction that an appellate court’s ruling does not conflict with decisions by the Florida Supreme Court and that the high court should not review the intermediate appellate court’s finding that U.S. surgeon general reports on smoking were inadmissible as hearsay in reversing a $46.5 million award against the company in an Engle progeny case (Bettye Ryan, etc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC18-37, Fla. Sup.).
ATLANTA — A Florida tobacco manufacturer’s petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc of an appeal of a federal court’s dismissal — on the grounds that it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted — of its claims against competitors for unjust enrichment and unfair competition was denied by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 21 (Vibo Corp., Inc. v. U.S. Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers, Inc., et al., No. 18-12499, 11th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 18768).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida jury awarded the children of a longtime smoker who died from lung cancer $6 million in compensatory damages and $4.6 million in punitive damages on July 1 and 2, respectively, in an Engle progeny case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Robert Hamilton v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2008-CA-019632 , Fla. 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO OF THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida jury on June 24 cleared R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. of liability in the death of a longtime smoker in the retrial of a case that had seen an award of more than $33 million in compensatory and punitive damages (Cynthia Robinson v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2008-CA-000098, Fla. 1st Jud. Cir., Escambia Co.). VIDEO OF THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government, “[w]hen forced to defend its warnings mandate on premium cigars . . . has to bend the First Amendment beyond recognition,” tobacco makers and retailers contend in a June 4 brief in federal court in the District of Columbia in further support of their motion for summary judgment and permanent junction and opposition to the Food and Drug Administration’s cross-motion for summary judgment (En Fuego Tobacco Shop LLC, et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 18-1797, D. D.C.).
ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida court should enter a directed verdict because evidence did not support the jury’s strict liability design-defect finding in a trial that resulted in $300,000 in survivorship damages and $16 million in punitive damages being awarded to the family of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. says in a May 8 reply brief in support of its renewed motion for directed verdict or, alternatively, for a new trial or remittitur (Brinda Coates v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 1997-CA-004541-O, Fla. 9th Jud. Cir., Orange Co.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Petitioner R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. “improperly presumes” that the Florida Supreme Court will accept jurisdiction of an Engle progeny case in which the cigarette maker was ordered to pay $20 million in punitive damages and “erroneously asserts” reasons the case should be consolidated with another Engle case for the high court to review, the personal representative of the estate of a smoker says in a May 15 opposition brief (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Sandra L. Mattson, etc., No. SC18-1550, Fla. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds’ motion seeking to consolidate a petition to the Florida Supreme Court in an Engle wrongful death action with the petition in another Engle case appears to be premature since a decision to review each matter is pending and “[t]he existence of jurisdiction in each case necessarily rises and falls on its own merits,” the widow of a smoker says in her June 12 brief arguing for denial of the motion (Mary E. Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC19-601, Fla. Sup.).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals should reverse a lower court’s denial of Philip Morris USA Inc.’s motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) because the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to establish reliance and legal causation elements of fraud claims, the company says in an April 24 brief supporting its appeal in a Florida Engle progeny case that resulted in a $17 million judgment against it (Donna Brown v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 15-13160, M.D. Fla.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on June 17 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by a cigarette wholesaler seeking a ruling on whether its fine by the tax commissioner of West Virginia was unconstitutional and “grossly disproportionate” to its offense of unlawfully selling more than 12,000 packs of cigarettes (Ashland Specialty Co. Inc. v. Dale W. Steager, State Tax Commissioner of West Virginia, No. 18-1053, U.S. Sup.).
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on June 7 found that a lower court did not abuse its discretion when it denied a plaintiff’s motion to reinstate a two-decade-old tobacco personal injury case that became part of mass litigation, saying the plaintiff “did not take the steps necessary to become a proper party or prosecute the claim” (In re Tobacco Litigation [Jimmie Hieneman v. Brown & Williamson Holdings, Inc.], No. 18-0412, W.Va. Sup.; 2019 W.Va. LEXIS 286).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and the widow of a longtime cigarette smoker have settled a wrongful death action, a Florida judge said June 10 on what would have been the second day of testimony in their Engle progeny trial (Jeanette Powell, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2007CA011551, Fla. 4th Jud. Cir., Duval Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
LOWELL, Mass. — A Massachusetts jury awarded the family of a 58-year-old longtime smoker who died from lung cancer $6.31 million in compensatory damages on May 30 and $11,275,000 in punitive damages on May 31 in a wrongful death action against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (James Coyne v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 1681CV00266, Mass. Super., Middlesex Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 29 rejected federal constitutional challenges and state law claims challenging statutory changes to Georgia’s model escrow agreement for tobacco producers in affirming an order by a federal judge (S&M Brands, Inc. v. Georgia ex rel., No. 17-13261, 11th Cir.; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 15870).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products, despite the language of an 1855 treaty, after the U.S. Supreme Court on June 10 denied the company’s petition for certiorari, letting stand a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup.).
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The maker of “JUUL”-brand nicotine extract pods on June 4 filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against various alleged counterfeiters in Virginia federal court; the same day, Juul Labs Inc. (JLI) moved to seal its related request for a temporary restraining order (TRO), citing a “strong interest in preventing Defendants from discovering the existence of the suit” (Juul Labs Inc. v. Unincorporated Associations, No. 19-715, E.D. Va.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Ecstacy herbal cigarettes are at least as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes, and the brand’s owner “subvert[s]” their health risks and promotes them as a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes, a woman alleges in a product liability class action filed May 30 in Florida federal court (Jamie Reid, et al. v. Greenlane Holdings, Inc., No. 9:19-cv-80711-RLR, S.D. Fla.).
MIAMI — A Florida jury on May 17 awarded $1 million in punitive damages to a man who lost his mother to laryngeal cancer more than 15 years ago, a day after the same jury declined to award him any compensatory damages (Robert C. Moore v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2008-CA-000858, Fla. 11th Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that an Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products, despite the language of an 1855 treaty, creates a split among the circuit courts that is much more entrenched and severe than the federal government asserts, the company tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a May 20 reply brief in its quest for certiorari (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1891).