BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York federal judge on Feb. 11 held that the state of New York plausibly alleges that two Indian enterprises are running a contraband cigarette ring that illegally brings millions of dollars’ worth of cigarettes into New York from Canada, rejecting a magistrate judge’s recommendation to dismiss the state’s claims (New York v. Grand River Enterprises Six Nations, Ltd., et al., No. 14-cv-910, W.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21558).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A docket entry on Feb. 6 indicates the U.S. Supreme Court will consider at its Feb. 22 conference a due process challenge by two tobacco companies ordered to pay a woman $4.34 million in connection with the cancer death of her mother (R.J. Reynolds, et al. v. Cheryl Searcy, No. 18-649, U.S. Sup.).
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A divided Fifth District Florida Court of Appeal on Feb. 7 found that a trial court erred in applying the pre-1999 version of Florida’s punitive damages statute in an Engle-progeny case and not the post-1999 version of the law, which was in effect at the time of a smoker’s death in 2007 (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Mary Sheffield, No. 5D17-2521, Fla. App., 5th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 1837).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Almost six months after a jury deadlocked on the amount of punitive damages owed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to the widow of a smoker, a new jury empaneled in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court for Alachua County, Fla., on Feb. 7 awarded her $13.5 million (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.
DETROIT — A divided Michigan Court of Appeals on Feb. 5 affirmed a trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss by two individuals accused of violating the state’s Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) when they transported 3,000 cigarettes without a license (Michigan v. John Francis Davis, No. 341621; Michigan v. Gerald Magnant, No. 341627, Mich. App., 2019 Mich. App. LEXIS 179).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court on Feb. 5 announced that it will not hear an Engle progeny plaintiff’s challenge of a new trial ordered by a district judge who recognized his own error in dismissing prospective jurors before they could be questioned by the defense (Heather Irimi v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2019 Fla. LEXIS 197, Fla. Sup.).
TEXARKANA, Texas — In a Jan. 31 filing in Texas federal court, Philip Morris USA Inc. (PM USA) maintains that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and ITG Brands LLC have failed to make more than $150 million in required payments to the state of Texas following ITG’s $7.1 billion acquisition of the Winston, Kool, Salem and Maverick cigarette brands in 2017 (Texas v. American Tobacco Company, et al., No. 96-91, E.D. Texas).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The wife of a lung cancer victim on Jan. 29 failed to persuade a Florida jury that her husband qualified as a member in the decertified Engle class (Rose Pollari v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 14-001563CA19, Fla. 17th Jud Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BARTOW, Fla. — In a verdict rendered Jan. 25, jurors empaneled in a Florida court rejected assertions of Engle membership by the son-in-law of a smoker who died in 2007 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer (Garold E. Russell v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2010-CA-005234, Fla. 10th Jud. Cir., Polk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
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.).