TRENTON, N.J. — A federal judge in New Jersey on Jan. 7 denied an e-cigarette pod manufacturer’s motion to dismiss e-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc.’s lawsuit alleging trademark infringement against the manufacturer’s individual cofounders, finding that jurisdiction and service were proper and that Juul presented plausible allegations to pierce the corporate veil and assert liability against the cofounders.
SAN FRANCISCO — E-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (JLI), its co-founders and board members, and tobacco company Altria Group Inc. and its subsidiaries on Jan. 4 filed new motions in a California federal court to dismiss racketeering and state law consumer fraud claims against them, asserting that the plaintiffs’ amended complaints fail to resolve deficiencies previously identified by the MDL judge.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) urged a Florida appellate panel during oral arguments on Jan. 5 to order a new trial in a deceased smoker’s son’s lawsuit against it that ended in a $10.6 million jury verdict, arguing that the trial court erred by barring it from cross-examining a witness about inconsistencies in her testimony, allowing backward-looking hearsay testimony and allowing references to illegal drug use during closing arguments.
TRENTON, N.J. — A federal judge in New Jersey on Dec. 29 authorized an e-cigarette pod manufacturer to withdraw $250,000 for legal fees and living expenses out of approximately $20 million the judge froze Dec. 22 to prevent the manufacturer from spending profits it allegedly earned through infringing Juul Labs Inc.’s trademark by repeatedly using the hashtag “#juul” to market its products.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Cigar and pipe tobacco industry associations urge the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a Dec. 16 appellant brief to strike down provisions of the Food and Drug Administration’s final deeming rule applying to cigars and pipe tobacco as arbitrary and capricious, including substantial equivalence review requirements, the imposition of user fees and the regulation of wooden pipes as components of tobacco products.
PHILADELPHIA — The city of Philadelphia on Dec. 11 filed notice of appeal in a federal court in Pennsylvania stating that it will challenge a judge’s ruling enjoining it from enforcing a local ban on sales of flavored tobacco products before the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Cigar Association Of America Inc., et al. v. Philadelphia, et al., No. 20-3220, E.D. Pa.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 18 declined to accept jurisdiction over R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s (RJR) challenge to the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s affirmance of a court order requiring RJR to pay approximately $102 million under a 1997 settlement with the state for sales of four cigarette brands it sold to another manufacturer (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Florida, et al., No. SC20-1506, Fla. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) in a Dec. 2 merits brief urges the Florida Supreme Court to approve an appellate panel’s reversal of a $5 million punitive damages verdict for the widow of a smoker who died in 2007, arguing that the state’s post-1999 punitive damages statute was properly applied to the case based on the date of death and that other appellate panels have wrongly created an “Engle-only exception” by applying the pre-1999 statute to Engle class members who died after 1999 (Mary E. Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC19-601, Fla. Sup.).
MIAMI — A Florida appellate panel on Dec. 16 for the second time affirmed a trial court’s granting of a tobacco company’s motion for a directed verdict after a smoker’s widow filed a motion for rehearing, again finding that the widow failed to provide sufficient evidence linking the tobacco company’s misconduct to her late husband’s illness and death as was required by the trial court’s jury instructions (Joyce Hardin v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 3D18-0958, Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 17881).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on Dec. 9 affirmed a jury verdict of more than $5 million to a smoker’s widower against two tobacco companies but wrote at length to critique “egregiously improper closing arguments” by plaintiff’s counsel, including “oblique” comparisons of the tobacco companies to Nazis, and while finding that the arguments did not warrant reversal emphatically stated that such arguments should not be made by counsel or allowed by trial court judges (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Myron Kaplan, No. 4D18-2880, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 17519).
TYLER, Texas — A federal judge in Texas on Dec. 2 granted a motion by tobacco companies challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s new tobacco graphic warnings rule to extend the rule’s effective date for the second time, again due to logistical delays caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 20-176, E.D. Texas).
HELENA, Mont. — The state of Montana and a group of tobacco companies on Nov. 25 submitted a consent decree in a state court that resolved Montana’s motion to enforce provisions of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) against tobacco companies under which the tobacco companies agreed to pay Montana more than $49 million in MSA payments for the years 2005 through 2019 (Montana ex rel. Timothy Fox v. Philip Morris Inc., et al., No. CDV-1997-306, Mont. 1st Jud. Dist., Lewis and Clark Co.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Fourth District Florida Court of Appeal panel on Dec. 3 per curiam affirmed a trial court’s denial of a smoker’s widow’s motion for a new trial, which the widow contended should have been granted because the trial court did not allow cross-examination of the tobacco companies’ expert witness regarding the age at which the decedent began smoking and due to allegedly improper closing arguments by the tobacco companies (Rose Pollari v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 4D19-2610, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 17199).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Dec. 1 affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in a challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s 2016 deeming rule regulating e-cigarettes after finding that issuance of the rule by an unconfirmed FDA assistant commissioner was later cured by a confirmed commissioner (Moose Jooce, et al. v. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 20-5048, D.C. Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 37477).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) in a Nov. 30 merits brief urges the Florida Supreme Court to affirm an appellate panel’s reversal of a verdict finding it liable for fraud despite the lack of evidence that a smoker directly relied on fraudulent statements made by RJR and tells the court that the preclusive effect of Engle on fraud claims is unconstitutional (Linda Prentice v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. SC20-291, Fla. Sup.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal panel on Nov. 17 heard arguments on whether a trial court should have granted a motion for a new trial after not allowing tobacco companies’ expert witness to be cross-examined about the significance of the age at which the decedent began smoking, which had been deemed hearsay earlier but which the widow’s counsel asserts could have impacted the expert’s credibility (Rose Pollari v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 4D19-2610, Fla. App., 4th Dist.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state of Florida in a Nov. 25 answer brief on jurisdiction urges the Florida Supreme Court to not review R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s (RJR) challenge to the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s affirmance of a court order requiring RJR to pay approximately $102 million under a 1997 settlement with the state for sales of cigarette brands it no longer owns because no conflict of law exists in the case and the matter does not warrant discretionary review (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Florida, et al., No. SC20-1506, Fla. Sup.).
ATLANTA — An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Nov. 20 reversed a district court’s ruling that a deceased smoker was an Engle class member and said two tobacco companies are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the smoker’s medical conditions did not satisfy the Florida Supreme Court’s requirements for Engle class membership (Patricia Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 19-11907, 11th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 36595).
SAN FRANCISCO — Government agencies and health groups on Nov. 20 filed a joint stipulation in a federal court in California stating that the Food and Drug Administration will in January 2021 make a final determination on whether it will modify its ban on flavored cigarettes to include menthol, following a magistrate judge’s denial of the agencies’ motion to dismiss the health groups’ claim that such a determination is required by federal tobacco laws (African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et al., No. 20-4012, N.D. Calif.).
PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Nov. 13 granted a motion by a cigar industry association and cigar manufacturers for a preliminary injunction halting the city of Philadelphia from enforcing a ban on flavored tobacco products as the judge found the ordinance preempted by state law and that the plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm from the ordinance (Cigar Association Of America Inc., et al. v. Philadelphia, et al., No. 20-3220, E.D. Pa., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 212267).