ORLANDO, Fla. — In a verdict rendered Nov. 15, a Florida jury sided with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on allegations that the cigarette maker bears legal responsibility for the lung cancer death of a Florida man (Stephanie Hochreiter v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2015CA003926, 9th Jud. Cir., Orange Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
LAKELAND, Fla. — In a Nov. 14 ruling, a divided Second District Florida Court of Appeal found that a trial court’s dismissal of a tobacco plaintiff’s case for lack of prosecution must be reversed and remanded for further proceedings because the dismissal was not preceded by an evidentiary hearing to address disputed issues of fact (Estella Purdue v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2D18-0333, Fla. App., 2nd Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 16261).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In an Oct. 7 opinion, the Fourth District Florida Court of Appeal affirmed a $20 million award of compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the daughter of a smoker, in accordance with a mandate by the Florida Supreme Court (Gwendolyn E. Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 4D14-3867, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 15921).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Despite Crane Co.’s protestations to the contrary, Florida’s Supreme Court adopted the Frye standard and, rather than overlook the issue of whether nonparty defendants should have appeared on an asbestos verdict sheet, simply declined to address the question, a plaintiff told the court on Nov. 9. R.J. Reynolds argues in its petition for rehearing that the court’s ruling threatens to stoke a battle over the separation of powers between the branches of Florida government (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a Nov. 6 ruling, a majority of a First District Florida Court of Appeal panel agreed with a tobacco wrap distributor that a 2016 memorandum issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation constitutes an unadopted rule that cannot be enforced (Grabba-Leaf LLC v. Department of Business and Professional Regulation, No. 1D16-4273, Fla. App, 1st Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 15780).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For the third time, jurors on Nov. 7 sided with the tobacco industry in a longstanding dispute over the lung cancer death of a Florida man (Eddie O. Starbuck v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 09-cv-13250, M.D. Fla.).
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A local Rhode Island ordinance that requires stores selling tobacco to obtain a “dealer’s license” and pay an annual $100 fee was rejected as unconstitutional on Oct. 30 by a Rhode Island judge (Sams Food Mart LLC v. Town of Middletown, No. NC-2017-0443, R.I. Super., 2018 R.I. Super. LEXIS 95).
SAN FRANCISCO — In an Oct. 30 holding, a California federal judge found that purported class claims that JUUL Labs Inc. misrepresents the amount of nicotine in its electronic cigarettes are not preempted by the Tobacco Control Act (TCA), 21 U.S.C. § 387 et seq., and may proceed (Bradley Colgate, et al. v. JUUL Labs Inc., No. 18-2499, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185919).
DETROIT — A Michigan appellate court in an Oct. 23 unpublished opinion reversed a trial court’s order affirming the Department of Treasury’s seizure and forfeiture of a company’s tobacco product pursuant to the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA), holding that the company should have been allowed to conduct discovery related to the lawfulness of the seizure and forfeiture (Prime Time International Distributing, Inc. v. Department of Treasury, No. 338564, Mich. App., 2018 Mich. App. LEXIS 3379).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A jury was selected on Oct. 29 in a third retrial of allegations that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. bear responsibility for the lung cancer death of a Florida man; the same day, a Florida federal judge issued jurors preliminary instructions in the case (Eddie O. Starbuck v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 09-cv-13250, M.D. Fla.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — New York can continue to seek taxes from tribal retailers on cigarettes sold to non-Indians after the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 29 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by a Seneca Nation outlet store operator (Eric White, et al. v. Barbara D. Underwood, et al., No. 18-297, U.S. Sup.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida appellate court on Oct. 18 affirmed a jury verdict in favor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA Inc. in a suit in which a man and his wife claimed that the man developed bladder cancer because of his addiction to cigarettes made by the two tobacco companies (Steven Kogan v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 4D17-2256, Fla. App., 4th Dist., 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 14872).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In an Oct. 23 holding, the Florida Supreme Court granted rehearing in a dispute over an appellate decision that reduced a $5.7 million compensatory damages award in an Engle progeny case to reflect a jury’s determination of comparative fault (Vickie McKeever, etc. v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., No. SC17-198, Fla. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 22 denied rehearing en banc of its affirmance of a Washington federal judge’s determination that a tribal manufacturer of tobacco products located on land held in trust by the United States is not entitled to an exemption from the federal tobacco excise tax (United States v. King Mountain Tobacco Co., Nos. 14-36055, 16-35607, 9th Cir.).
MIAMI — A Florida minor filed a class action suit in Florida federal court on Oct. 10, alleging that a maker of an e-cigarette device engaged in false marketing and promotion of its products to minors in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUPTA) (J.Y., et al. v. JUUL Labs, Inc., No. 18-14416, S.D. Fla.).
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine was not the legal cause of the death by lung cancer of a Florida man, jurors in a Florida courtroom concluded Oct. 17, in what marked a win for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Cynthia McFall Ridley v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2011-CA-005250, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two Native American tribes in New York asked the U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 9 to grant certiorari to decide how the New York Indian Law applies to the state’s attempt to collect taxes on cigarettes sold on an Indian reservation to nontribal members (Eric White, et al. v. Barbara D. Underwood, et al., No. 18-297, U.S. Sup.).
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Legislature’s adoption of the Daubert standard involved procedural rules properly within the scope of the court’s powers, and an appeals court improperly applied it to exclude expert testimony relied on in an $8 million judgment against asbestos and tobacco companies, a majority of the Florida Supreme Court said Oct. 15 (Richard DeLisle v. Crane Co., et al., No. SC16-2182, Fla. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration submitted a proposed expedited rulemaking timeline on Oct. 5 for publishing new graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements by May 2021 in response to a federal judge’s order, claiming that the proposed timeline would result in the issuance of a final rule six months sooner than a timeline previously provided to the court (American Academy of Pediatrics, et al v. United States Food and Drug Administration, No. 16-cv-11985, D. Mass.).
BOSTON — A Massachusetts jury hearing a rare trial involving both asbestos and tobacco defendants on Oct. 12 faulted one of the three defendants and hit that tobacco company with $13.1 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages for a man’s lung cancer (Louis Summerlin, et al. v. Philip Morris, USA, et al., No. 1581CV05255, Mass. Super., Suffolk Co.). VIDEO FROM THE TRIAL IS AVAILABLE.