TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appeals court erred when it created a bright-line cap on the amount of noneconomic damages available to adult, financially independent children who prevail on wrongful death claims in Engle progeny cases, a divided Florida Supreme Court ruled Sept. 20 (Gwendolyn E. Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC17-563, Fla. Sup., 2018 Fla. LEXIS 1703).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. on Sept. 18 were ordered by a Florida jury to pay $1 million to a plaintiff for the loss of his mother’s companionship following her death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Marc Simon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al., No. 2007-CV-027976, Fla. 17th. Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
MIAMI — Jurors empaneled in Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County on Sept. 18 awarded an Engle progeny plaintiff $6.5 million in connection with her claim that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. conspired to conceal the effects of smoking from her father (Hanifah Harewood v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 07-46331-CA-02, Fla. Cir., 11th Jud. Cir., Miami-Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
MIAMI — In what it deemed an issue of first impression, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal on Sept. 12 concluded that the phrase “[a]ll Florida citizens and residents” as it appears in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Engle, 672 So. 2d 39, 40 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (Engle I), requires a showing that at the time of manifestation or diagnosis of a smoking-related disease, a decedent must have resided in or been a citizen of Florida to qualify as an Engle class member (Elsa Chacon v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 3D16-2330, Fla. App. 3rd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 12792).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Supreme Court intervention is needed to correct a New York appeals court’s decision allowing the state to collect taxes on cigarettes sold on an Indian reservation to nontribal members because the ruling goes against state law and an 1842 treaty, a tribal member with a cigarette sales business tells the high court in a Sept. 4 petition for certiorari (Eric White, et al. v. Barbara D. Underwood, et al., No. 18-297, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3252).
BOSTON — A Boston jury on Sept. 7 heard opening arguments in a rare lung cancer trial involving tobacco and asbestos defendants (Louis Summerlin, et al. v. Philip Morris, USA, et al., No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO OF THE TRIAL AVAILABLE
PENSACOLA, Fla. — In a verdict announced Sept. 7 a Florida jury ordered Philip Morris USA Inc. to pay the widow and children of a smoker $250,000 in noneconomic damages, just over one year after an appeals court found that an initial jury award rendered in the case was too low and the result of “adverse passion and prejudice” (Micah Danielson v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2007-CA-002737, Fla. Cir., 1st Jud. Cir.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
BOSTON — In a Sept. 5 grant of summary judgment in favor of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other health organizations, a Massachusetts federal judge compelled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to promulgate a final rule implementing Section 201(a) of the Tobacco Control Act (TCA) (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration, No. 1:16-cv-11985, D. Mass., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150595).
ATLANTA — Pursuant to its holding in Burkhart v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 5 rejected assertions by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris Inc. that their due process rights are violated when courts give preclusive effect to the concealment and conspiracy findings in Engle v. Liggett Grp., Inc. (Cheryl Searcy v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 13-15258, 11th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 25191).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Efforts by a wrongful death plaintiff to overturn a Florida judge’s order disqualifying the Ferraro Firm from further representing her in litigation against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. were unsuccessful on Sept. 5, when the First District Florida Court of Appeal denied her petition for certiorari (Lue Ethel Russ v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al., No. 1D17-1847, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 12540).
BALTIMORE — In an Aug. 28 memorandum, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association and others urge a Maryland federal judge to reject claims by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the groups lack Article III standing to challenge the “Extension of Certain Tobacco Product Compliance Deadlines Related to the Final Deeming Rule” (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 8:18-CV-883, D. Md.).
HARRISBURG, Pa. — An order requiring a tobacco company to produce a list of mesothelioma litigation it faced falls short of requiring an immediate review, a Pennsylvania court held Aug. 30 in quashing an appeal (Bernice M. Steiner, et al. v. Hollingsworth & Vose Co., et al., No. 563 EDA 2018, Pa. Super., 2018 Pa. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 3207).
MIAMI — In an Aug. 21 verdict, a Florida jury rejected allegations that cigarettes manufactured and marketed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. are responsible for the laryngeal cancer of a 25-year, two-pack-a-day smoker (Barbara Morales v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2007-016277-CA-01, Fla. Cir., 11th Jud. Cir., Dade Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In two verdicts rendered Aug. 27, a Florida jury awarded the son of a smoker $7.5 million, one year after a mistrial was declared in the case because of contradictory jury instructions (Michael Olson v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2008-CA-00396, Fla. 4th Jud. Cir., Duval Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
NEW YORK — Deeming the Maryland appellate ruling in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v Stidham, 448 Md. 497, 141 A3d 1 (2016), instructive, a New York judge in an opinion posted Aug. 27 rejected efforts by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to transfer smoking-related allegations by a lung cancer sufferer out of the New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) docket (Stephen Gabris v. 3M Company et al., No. 190259/2017, N.Y. Sup., New York Co., 2018 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3623).
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — In what a public health research and advocacy nonprofit organization estimates are among the largest verdicts ever rendered in individual tobacco litigation, two juries empaneled in the U.S. Virgin Islands Superior Court in four separate verdicts issued in August ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay the children of two parents $113 million, including a $30 million punitive damage award rendered on Aug. 24 (Jevon Gerald v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. ST-10-CV-631, U.S.V.I., Christian Brown v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. ST-10-CV-692, U.S.V.I. Super.).
SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico federal judge overseeing multidistrict litigation over allegations that a cigarette manufacturer and its holding company misled consumers on Aug. 18 ordered the defendants to present a corporate representative for deposition, while also directing plaintiffs to comply with discovery requests in advance of defense depositions (In re: Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Marketing and Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 16-2695, D. Ariz., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140453).
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A mistrial was declared in Phase 2 of an Engle progeny case on Aug. 17 by a Florida judge after jurors indicated that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the amount of punitive damages to be awarded to the family of a smoker (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.
HELENA, Mont. — Although conceding that a proposed ballot initiative regarding, among other increases, a $2 tax on cigarettes may contain a “mathematical misstatement,” the Montana Supreme Court on Aug. 15 refused to enjoin the state from putting the question to Montana voters this fall (Montanans Against Tax Hikes, et al. v. Corey Stapleton, Montana Secretary of State, et al., No. OP 18-0455, Mont. Sup., 2018 MT 201).
HONOLULU — A plaintiff previously deemed an “abusive litigant” in Hawaii federal court saw his latest efforts at litigating pro se — this time against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. — thwarted Aug. 16 by a different Hawaii federal judge, who found that the proposed complaint “wholly lacks a cognizable legal theory” (Truman Lee Ketchmark v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, No. 18-79, D. Hawaii, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138767).