WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that an Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products, despite the language of an 1855 treaty, creates a split among the circuit courts that is much more entrenched and severe than the federal government asserts, the company tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a May 20 reply brief in its quest for certiorari (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup.).
BALTIMORE — A Maryland federal judge on May 15 agreed with various public health organizations that an August 2017 Guidance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — pursuant to which some newly deemed tobacco products can continue to be sold while awaiting their premarket review — runs afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. Food and Drug Administration, et al., No. 8:18-CV-883, D. Md., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81652).
DURHAM, N.C. — The state of North Carolina on May 15 sued e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs Inc. in state court, contending that it violated the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act by focusing its marketing campaign at adolescents under 18 and misrepresented the dangers of the product (North Carolina v. Juul Labs Inc., No. n/a, N.C. Super., Durham Co.).
VERO BEACH, Fla. — A Florida judge said she had no discretion in declaring a mistrial on May 13 in the retrial of a personal injury Engle case a day after the plaintiff died (Fannie Collar v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 31-2011-CA-000115, Fla. 19th Jud. Cir., Indian River Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida jury on May 14 awarded $500,000 in damages in a wrongful death action against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. maintained by two adult children of a Florida woman who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); two days later, on May 16, plaintiffs in the case were awarded $3.25 million in punitive damages (Jannice Durrance Jones, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2008-CA-009036, Fla. 13th Jud. Cir., Hillsborough Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
TACOMA, Wash. — A woman who claims that an e-cigarette battery exploded in her pocket and that the subsequent fire permanently disfigured her sued the retailer, distributors and manufacturers in a Washington court on April 29, seeking compensatory and punitive damages (Stephanie Galdarisi v. Vapor St8, et al., No. 19-2-07450-2, Wash. Super., Pierce Co.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — R.J. Reynolds Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. sufficiently alleged facts that reasonably created fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial in an Engle progeny case where the judge has a history of being counsel for plaintiffs who sued the tobacco companies, a Florida appellate panel found in a May 6 per curiam opinion that ordered a new judge to be assigned to the case (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Guy Cuddihee, No. 1D19-0385, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 6862).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A smoker’s widow in an amended brief on jurisdiction filed May 6 asked the Florida Supreme Court to review an appellate court finding that U.S. surgeon general reports on smoking are inadmissible as hearsay in reversing a $46.5 million award she had received in an Engle progeny suit and ordering a new trial (Bettye Ryan, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC18-37, Fla. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appellate court on May 6 denied Philip Morris USA’s bid to reduce the punitive damages imposed against it in an Engle progeny case, saying no part of the judgment constituted the punitive damages component of the Engle judgment, and also denied the tobacco company’s appeal for a new trial (Philip Morris USA Inc. v. Veda Bryant, et al., No. 1D18-1053, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 6864).
PHILADELPHIA — The pro se lawsuit of a prison inmate with five forms of cancer largely survived motions to dismiss brought by defendants Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., a federal judge in Pennsylvania said in an opinion and order filed April 23, noting that those claims were adequately pleaded at this early stage of the proceedings (David Robinson v. Philip Morris USA, Inc, et al., No. 18-1743, E.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69013).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In a May 2 verdict, Florida jurors awarded a former smoker who went on to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer $1.63 million in compensatory damages but deemed her 84 percent responsible for her own health problems (Karla Zingaro v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 2007-CV-036438, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government on May 1 urged the U.S. Supreme Court justices to deny a petition for certiorari because the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals correctly held that a Washington state Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products, despite the language of an 1855 treaty (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1622).
CHICAGO — A federal judge in Illinois on April 24 found that tobacco retailers were not fraudulently joined to a case brought against both retailers and manufacturers and, because the retailer defendants destroyed complete diversity among the parties, the plaintiff’s motion to remand to state court was appropriate (Sydney M. Mitchell v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 18-cv-7739, N.D. Ill., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69313).
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Florida appellate panel in an April 23 per curiam opinion affirmed a 2017 jury verdict that awarded $36 million in damages to a smoker’s widow in an Engle progeny suit against two tobacco companies (Philip Morris, USA, Inc., et al. v. Fontaine Wallace, No. 5D18-526, Fla. App., 5th Dist, 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 6318).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A widow is entitled to damages for her husband’s wrongful death from lung cancer and survival damages for other smoking-related injuries that did not cause his death, a federal judge held April 15 in denying a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, an opinion the judge called his “best guess” as to how the Florida Supreme Court would address the dual-damages issue (Patricia Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 3:09-cv-13482, M.D. Fla., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64297).
TAMPA, Fla. — The maker of the popular e-cigarette Juul and its tobacco company investor were sued April 15 in a Florida federal court class action by the parents of a teenager who allege fraud and racketeering in Juul’s product design and marketing to entice their daughter and other children across the nation into becoming lifetime nicotine users (Erin NesSmith, et al. v. Juul Labs Inc., et al., No. 8:19-cv-00884. M.D. Fla.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The widow of a smoker has petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to review a divided Court of Appeal opinion that reversed her $5 million punitive damages award, a decision — she argues in her April 22 brief on jurisdiction — that requires review because it illustrates two sets of conflicting rules in many Engle wrongful death cases (Mary E. Sheffield, etc. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. SC19-601, Fla. Sup.).
QUINCY, Fla. — In an April 18 verdict, an Engle progeny plaintiff won $400,000 in compensatory damages from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. but was deemed unentitled to punitive damages (Lue Ethel Russ v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 15000042CAA, Fla. 2nd Jud. Cir., Gadsden Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
MIAMI — A Florida appellate court on April 10 affirmed a jury verdict that an addiction to cigarettes caused the throat cancer that killed a longtime smoker and, in reversing a directed verdict in the Engle progeny case, remanded for a new trial solely on the amount of punitive damages (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Mirtha Ledo, No. 3D17-2328. Fla. App., 3rd Dist., 2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 5519).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A tobacco company that lost its appeal of a $21 million wrongful death jury award petitioned the Florida Supreme Court on March 28 to review the appellate ruling, saying the divided opinion of the state’s Third District Court of Appeal directly conflicts with decisions of Florida’s high court and the First, Fourth and Fifth districts (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Diane Schleider, as personal representative of the Estate of Andrew Schleider, No. 19-445, Fla. Sup.).