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).
CHICAGO — A federal judge in Illinois on Oct. 26 remanded a smoker’s widow’s wrongful death suit against three tobacco companies and Walgreen Co. to state court, finding that the defendants failed to meet their burden of establishing that Walgreens, the only defendant based in Illinois, was fraudulently joined to destroy diversity jurisdiction (Lorraine M. Stone v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., et al., No. 20-5198, N.D. Ill.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The plaintiffs in the multidistrict litigation against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (JLI) and related entities on Nov. 13 filed a second amended class action complaint in which they expand their racketeering and other claims that the judge overseeing the case recently said were “insufficient” and would be dismissed if not amended with more detail (In Re: Juul Labs, Inc., Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No. 2913, No. 19-md-2913, N.D. Calif.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal judge on Nov. 5 heard arguments regarding U.S. government agencies’ motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction a lawsuit filed by two health advocacy organizations and the American Medical Association that claims that the Food and Drug Administration violated federal law by not completing a review of the risks of menthol cigarettes to determine whether menthol flavor tobacco products should be banned (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.).
MIAMI — The Third District Florida Court of Appeal on Oct. 21 denied two requests for writs of prohibition disqualifying a trial court judge from two tobacco cases after the judge referred to suing for punitive damages in tobacco suits as “silly,” which the panel said was “a statement of philosophy, rather than a stated judicial policy” (Gloria Gall v Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 3D20-1262, 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 14862; Mirtha Ledo v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 3D20-1263, Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 14867).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) in an Oct. 26 brief on jurisdiction to the Florida Supreme Court argues that the Fourth District Court of Appeal created two conflicts in Florida law by misinterpreting the state’s 1997 settlement with tobacco companies and affirming a trial court that ordered RJR to pay approximately $92 million to Florida and $9.8 million to Philip Morris USA Inc. in relation to cigarette brands it sold in 2014 (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. State of Florida, et al., No. SC20-1506, Fla. Sup.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel on Oct. 28 reversed final judgment entering a $50,000 compensatory damages award in favor of a smoker’s son and remanded for a new trial because the trial court erred by granting a tobacco company’s request to dismiss eight potential jurors based only on written answers indicating bias and without allowing oral questioning of those jurors (Shan Frogel v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., No. 4D19-2781, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 15342).
ST. LOUIS — A group of tobacco manufacturers and retailers in an Oct. 29 brief urge the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of their challenge to the city of Edina, Minn.’s ban on flavored tobacco products including menthol, arguing that the court erred in finding that the ban does not conflict with federal law and that such bans would “nullify” federal decision-making regarding the sale of tobacco products (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, et al. v. Edina, et al., No. 20-2852, 8th Cir.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The California federal judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation against e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc. (JLI) and related entities for allegedly spurring a youth vaping epidemic on Oct. 23 denied defense motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims based on federal preemption and other arguments, but granted dismissal of certain claims with leave to amend such as racketeering claims that the judge said are “currently insufficient” (In Re: Juul Labs, Inc., Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No. 2913, No. 19-md-2913, N.D. Calif.).
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Fifth District Florida Court of Appeal panel on Oct. 23 reversed for remittitur or new trial a jury’s $16 million punitive damages award against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) in favor of the sister of a deceased smoker after determining that it was “excessive” in relation to the $300,000 compensatory damages award (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Brinda Coates, No. 5D19-2549, Fla. App., 5th Dist., 2020 Fla. App. LEXIS 15018).
DENVER — A group of discount cigarette manufacturers filed a complaint on Oct. 15 in Colorado federal court against the state and its officials to block enforcement of a proposed minimum cigarette pack price hike that they allege is an unconstitutional form of “price-fixing” that was negotiated in a “back-room deal” with premium-brand tobacco companies (Liggett Group LLC, et al. v. State Of Colorado, et al., No. 20-3107, D. Colo.).
SAN DIEGO — Seeking to block a new California law that bans the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol flavor, statewide, a group of tobacco companies, industry associations and retailers on Oct. 9 filed a complaint and a motion for preliminary injunction in a California federal court, arguing that the new law regarding flavors is preempted by congressional tobacco regulations that bar municipalities from enacting regulations related to “tobacco product standards” (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Becerra, et al., No. 20-1990, S.D. Calif.).
By John P. Katerndahl
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Three tobacco companies on Oct. 9 filed a jurisdictional brief asking the Florida Supreme Court to review a Fourth District Court of Appeal decision reinstating a $1.8 million verdict in favor of a smoker’s widower, arguing that the appeals court erred in finding that the plaintiff submitted sufficient evidence to establish defendant-specific causation (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v James Santoro, No. SC20-1291, Fla. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Government agencies on Oct. 8 filed a cross-motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, urging the court to reject two tobacco companies’ challenges to the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed new graphic warnings for tobacco products, saying that FDA studies establish that the new warnings better inform the public than existing surgeon general warnings (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 20-1181, D. D.C.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Oct. 5 affirmed a district court’s dismissal of an e-liquids manufacturer’s lawsuit claiming that the Food and Drug Administration’s filings to a Maryland federal court unlawfully supported the court’s order advancing the premarket tobacco application (PMTA) deadline by 27 months for lack of standing and found that the manufacturer’s request for injunctive relief halting PMTA-related enforcement against it was without merit (Vapor Technology Association, et al. v. U.S. Food And Drug Administration, et al., No. 20-5199, 6th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 31586).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Fifth District Florida Court of Appeal panel wrongly reversed a $5 million punitive damages verdict in favor of a smoker's widow and created conflict with three other appellate courts by determining that the state's post-1999 punitive damages statute was applicable to the widow's case based on her husband's 2007 death rather than ruling that the pre-1999 statute should apply as the cancer diagnosis and commencement of the lawsuit both occurred in 1994, the widow argues in her merits brief filed Oct. 2 in the Florida Supreme Court (Mary E. Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC19-601, Fla. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A smoker's daughter in a Sept. 30 merits brief asks the Florida Supreme Court to quash an appellate court's decision reversing a $6.4 million compensatory damages award and ordering a new trial, arguing that the panel's ruling on the standard of reliance required for Engle plaintiffs' to establish fraud claims conflicts with two other state appellate courts and a decade of Engle progeny case law (Linda Prentice v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. SC20-291, Fla. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 5 denied certiorari for United Parcel Service Inc.'s challenge to a $98 million damages award in favor of New York state and city for UPS's illegal shipments of untaxed cigarettes from Native American smoke shops (United Parcel Service, Inc. v. New York, et al., No. 19-1306, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A California court's award on remand of summary judgment to the state on its claims that an Indian tribe was selling unapproved cigarette brands from an out-of-state tribe stand after the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 5 denied the California tribe's petition for review (Native Wholesale Supply Company v. People of California ex rel. Xavier Becerra, No. 19-985, U.S. Sup.).