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Tobacco Companies Are Dealt a Series of Major Litigation Losses in Florida During March And April – and There’s no End in Sight

April 22nd, 2010

Contact: Edward L. Sweda or Mark Gottlieb
(617) 373-2026 or (617) 373-8462

Florida juries and a Court of Appeal have help make March and April of 2010 two months during which tobacco companies are being held accountable for their massive, reprehensible misconduct that has wreaked havoc on the lives of Florida residents.

In the most recent case, a jury in Gainesville on April 21 rendered a $10 million compensatory damages award and an $80 million punitive damages award against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the Townsend case.   The jury assessed 51% responsibility to RJR and 49% responsibility to Mr. Townsend. The apportionment of liability is possible through the legal doctrine of comparative fault which permits a defendant to be held liable for the portion of the harm it is responsible for in situations where the plaintiff bears some of the responsibility as well. Thus, if the verdict withstands appeal, the plaintiff will receive $80.5 million.

Other blows to Big Tobacco include the following:

“This ever-growing list of plaintiff victories in Florida constitutes a trend with a capital ‘T,’” said Edward L. Sweda, Jr., Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project (TPLP), a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, which is based at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.  “The tobacco companies must soon re-examine their policy of not settling these ‘Engle progeny’ cases, since many more trials are scheduled in the upcoming weeks and months,” Sweda concluded.

Mark Gottlieb, Director of TPLP noted that, “while there are some unique features of these Florida cases, there is no reason why this sort of success against the cigarette companies cannot be reproduced in many states.  Rational minds hear the evidence and hold wrongdoers accountable regardless of state boundaries.”

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