PHILADELPHIA — Although conceding that he made “two descriptive errors” in a February grant of summary judgment to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) and others, a Pennsylvania federal judge on March 20 reaffirmed that his findings were nonetheless proper because a pro se plaintiff “adduced no more than a mere scintilla of evidence” that his alleged injuries were caused by smoking defective cigarettes (Ted A. McCracken v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 17-4495, E.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47137).
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on March 5 awarded $937,500 in an asbestos lung cancer case, apportioning 60 percent of the liability to the plaintiff, 10 percent to tobacco exposure and the remaining to the maker of studio and movie prop equipment and a gun cement company (James and Supranee Godber v. Mole-Richardson Co. Ltd., et al., No. BC663471, Calif. Super., Los Angeles Co.).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Fla. — In a March 20 ruling, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal found that a trial court abused its discretion in allowing a widower to testify, “without limitation,” that his late wife’s initial treating physicians told the couple her primary lung cancer was caused by smoking cigarettes (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Kenneth Gloger, No. 3D18-341, Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 4090).
BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the heels of a February determination that the state of New York may proceed with allegations that two Indian enterprises violated federal and state law by running a contraband cigarette ring, defendants in the case moved March 12 for a stay (New York v. Grand River Enterprises Six Nations, Ltd., et al., No. 14-cv-910, W.D. N.Y.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a verdict rendered March 8, jurors found that negligence by a Florida woman who went on to suffer from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was the legal cause of her death (Shan Frogel, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2007CA023246, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BOSTON — In a March 5 memorandum and order, a Massachusetts federal judge directed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to submit by March 15, 2020, a final rule regarding new graphic and textual health warnings to be placed on cigarette packages and advertisements — more than one year earlier than the date proposed by the agency (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al v. United States Food and Drug Administration, No. 16-cv-11985, D. Mass., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34946).
LAKELAND, Fla. — A Hillsborough County, Fla., judge abused his discretion in failing to excuse a juror who admitted during voir dire that a widow would have “an uphill argument to make” in suing a tobacco company for her husband’s lung cancer, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal ruled May 1 (Judith Pearson v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2D17-3636, Fla. App. 2nd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 3156).
QUINCY, Fla. — In two separate Feb. 26 verdicts, a Florida jury awarded a widow $4 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages following a seven-day tobacco trial (Margaret Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2014CA000337, Fla. 2nd Jud. Cir., Gadsden Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida jury in an Engle progeny case on Feb. 27 returned a punitive damage award of $25 million, topping a $12.5 million award of compensatory damages issued Feb. 22 to the widower of a Florida woman (Richard Mahfuz v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 2007-CV-036743, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
SAN FRANCISCO — On rehearing, a California appeals court panel on Feb. 25 affirmed a summary adjudication order and a permanent injunction entered in favor of the state attorney general halting the on-reservation sale of untaxed cigarettes to the public by a member of an Indian tribe (The People ex rel. Xavier Becerra v. Ardith Huber, No. A144214, Calif. App., 1st Dist., 4th Div., 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 149).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In its Feb. 25 orders list, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a coordinated challenge by the tobacco industry to the longstanding practice by Florida state and federal courts of allowing members of the prospectively decertified Engle class to use generalized findings by the original Engle jury in individual lawsuits against the tobacco industry.
MIAMI — A Dade County jury on Feb. 22 awarded a smoker’s widow $2.5 million in compensatory damages and answered “yes” to the question of whether punitive damages were warranted, but on Feb. 25 awarded her $0 in the second phase of an Engle progeny case (Ruby Holliman v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2017CA002638, Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Although a Florida woman was awarded $1 million on Feb. 22 in an Engle progeny case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., jurors deemed her late husband 75 percent responsible for his own death from lung cancer (Kathleen Gafney v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2007CA020540, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a Feb. 13 holding, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal found that a reduction of a compensatory damage verdict to correspond to a smoker’s share of comparative fault must be vacated (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Bertie Thomas, No. 4D17-3040, Fla. App. 4th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 2161).
PHILADELPHIA — In a Feb. 14 holding, a Pennsylvania federal judge granted R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and other defendants summary judgment on claims by a continuing smoker that the tobacco industry’s use of ammoniated ingredients in cigarettes turned him into a nicotine addict (Ted A. McCracken v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 17-4495, E.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24091).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In two motions filed Feb. 13 in Florida federal court, Philip Morris USA Inc. launched an effort to undo an appellate ruling that awarded the estate of a recently deceased Florida woman $27 million (Bernard Cote v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 09-14157, M.D. Fla.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Fourth District Florida Court of Appeal in a Feb. 6 decision agreed with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that a Broward County judge’s ex parte communication with a plaintiff’s attorney about a “hot button issue in tobacco litigation” disqualifies him from presiding over the 12 Engle progeny cases that remain on his docket (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Saundra Alonso, et al., No. 4D18-2444, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 1603).
NEW YORK — A Connecticut federal judge’s dismissal of allegations that Philip Morris USA Inc. violated a state consumer protection law was reversed Feb. 12 by the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Hazel B. Pappas v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 17-3842-cv, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 4177).
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.).