November 5, 2010 - A jury yesterday, October 28th returned a verdict in favor of cigarette maker Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies in one of thousands of smokers' lawsuits in Florida.
It was the fifth consecutive verdict for the company in a group of lawsuits known as the Engle cases, Henrico County-based, Virginia Philip Morris USA said in a statement.
"The jury found that the smoker was 100 percent responsible for his smoking choices," said Murray Garnick, senior vice president and associate general counsel for Altria Group Inc., Philip Morris USA's parent company. Garnick said the verdict shows that the company "still has powerful defenses in these cases even though the courts are improperly allowing plaintiffs to rely on a prior jury's findings instead of proving their case at trial."
Background: The Engle case is named after a Florida pediatrician named Howard Engle who was the lead plaintiff in a statewide class action filed in 1994 on behalf of smokers who were addicted to nicotine and developed cancer or other smoking-related illnesses as a result. In the first part of what was intended to be a three-phase trial, a Miami jury decided a series of common questions relating to the companies’ conduct and to the health effects of smoking. In the second phase, the jury awarded $145 billion in punitive damages to the class.The Florida lawsuits stem from a class-action smokers' lawsuit named Engle. The Florida Supreme Court decertified the class-action case in 2006, but the court allowed individual lawsuits to proceed and said juries could rely on general findings about the companies' behavior from the first lawsuit.
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the $145 billion verdict and ruled that the case couldn’t continue as a class action. At the same time, Florida’s high court upheld most of the Phase I factual findings and said they would apply in all of the individual suits filed by smokers who had been part of the Engle class. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. The case is Brown v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 08- 16158, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Atlanta).
So far, eight of the 17 Engle cases against Philip Morris USA that have reached verdicts have been in favor of the company, a spokesman said. The verdict returned yesterday was in the case of Rohr v. RJ Reynolds, Philip Morris USA, Lorillard Tobacco Company and Liggett, in Broward County, Fla.
Reference: Florida jury rules for Philip Morris, other firms in smoker's lawsuit, By Staff Reports - John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/29/2010.
Some related news briefs from Florida court cases:
Florida is tide turning? - 4th time in 2-weeks Philip Morris USA wins court cases..;
Florida - PM USA to challenge verdict in the Piendle v. RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris USA case..;
Florida - tobacco companies ordered to pay $2.2 million to widow of smoker..;
Florida - individual cases against big tobacco can move forward, can rely on Engle jury findings..;
Florida - jury awards smoker $21M from Philp Morris USA.;
Florida - can big tobacco survive all these lawsuits they continue to lose??;
Florida - big tobacco loses another case..;
Florida - jury awards $26.6 million to smoker's widow..;
Florida - 9 year old case, appeals court upholds $24.8 million award..;
Florida - $300 million jury award to former smoker overturned..;
Florida - jury awards $300 million in ex-smoker's suit..;
Florida - tobacco companies ask court to block ruling..;
Florida - plaintiff drops case to avoid paying legal fees for Philip Morris USA..;
R.J. Reynolds to appeal plaintiff's award of $30 million..;
R.J. Reynolds loses Florida court trial - widow gets $30 million..;
Broward County Florida jury awards widow of smoker $1.5 million..