RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and Philip Morris have reached a $100 million settlement of 400 Engle cases in Florida. I thought they might do this. I’ve been writing for months that, every way I cut it, it was in their interest to do this.
The Engle (named after Howard Engle, a smoker who died several years ago) cases came from a Florida Supreme Court decision throwing out a $145 billion class-action judgement against Big Tobacco for its years of lies and cover-ups over the dangers of smoking. However, while throwing those cases out, the state Supreme Court opened the way for individual plaintiffs to file separate lawsuits against Big Tobacco.
Since then, literally thousands of lawsuits have been filed in Florida and Big Tobacco has been losing about two-thirds of these cases, with hundreds of millions of judgements awarded in favour of over a hundred plaintiffs. Most of those judgements have been upheld on appeal.
Rather than go through at least another decade of losing these cases (not to mention all the legal fees), I figured sooner or later, Big Tobacco was simply going to settle.
This settlement involves 400 cases filed in federal court. That’s $250,000 per plaintiff. I’m guessing there’s going to be more settlements, because I believe there’s several thousand more lawsuits ongoing, and that a lot of them are in state courts. So this settlement may have solely been to deal with the federal cases. And in fact, the NBC story is careful to say “it’s the first settlement by Big Tobacco to settle a chunk of Engle cases.”
Under the agreement, Lorillard will pay $15 million, while RJR and Philip Morris will each pay $42.5 million. This settlement won’t affect cases that have already been settled.
Great news for these families devastated by smoking! I’ll be keeping an eye out for future Engle settlements in Florida.