Tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds lost another major settlement this week in Florida.
This case is one of the thousands of Engle cases winding their way through the Florida courts. R.J. Reynolds will appeal this verdict (oh, yes they will) but several of these verdicts have been upheld by appeals courts.
The Engle cases stem from a huge $145 billion class-action judgement in 2000. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that settlement, but made an important decision to allow individual lawsuits against tobacco companies. Since then, several thousand lawsuits have been filed against tobacco companies, primarily Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorrilard, and judgements ranging between a few million to $23.6 billion have been handed down by juries (I believe that $23.6 billion judgement will get tossed on appeal as excessive … when I Googled it, Google asked me “do you mean $23.6 million?”).
According to the article:
Attorney Kenneth Byrd of the Nashville office of national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announced that a jury in federal court in Florida today returned a verdict of $41.1 million against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for conspiring for decades to conceal the hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes. The jury award consists of $15.8 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amounts of $15.7 million against Philip Morris and $9.6 million against R.J. Reynolds.
“The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”
Interesting that was in federal court, I’m positive other Florida cases were in state courts.
This case is also a little unusual because most of these Engle cases at this point are being filed by relatives of people who died from lung cancer. This one was filed by the smoker, who is still alive and is suffering from COPD, not lung cancer. I believe that’s the first major judgement I’ve seen against a tobacco company for its role in giving a person COPD. I’m sure there’s been some, I just don’t remember ever coming across a story about it until now.
According to the article:
“At trial Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds sought to place all the blame on Mr. Kerrivan for becoming addicted to nicotine as a teenager in a time when the defendants widely marketed smoking cigarettes using celebrities and famous athletes and advertised on television shows popular with children and teenagers. Thankfully, the jury rejected this defense and held Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds accountable for their decision to target an entire generation of post-World War II American teenagers with a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” stated Mr. Byrd. “The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.”