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Posts Tagged ‘Engle Progeny’

$17.3 million verdict against Lorillard in Jacksonville, FL

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Edward L. Sweda, Jr. or Mark Gottlieb (617)373-8462 or (617)373-2026

A jury awarded the family of a smoker who died of lung cancer in 1994 at the age of 63 a total of $6 million in compensatory damages. The jury assessed Lorillard Tobacco Company 65% responsibility for the death of Jacqueline Miller and 35% to Ms. Miller. This means that the compensatory damages award will be reduced by 35% while the punitive damages award will not.   Therefore, Lorillard is liable for $15.2 million plus interest for the wrongful death.

Starting smoking while in high school in the 1940s, two decades before health warnings appeared on cigarette packages, Jacqueline Miller smoked Lorillard’s brands Old Gold, Kent and Max. The lawsuit was brought by her daughter, Michelle Mrozek.  The case is: Mrozek v. Lorillard.

Representing the family is Attorney Bruce Anderson of the Jacksonville law firm Terrell Hogan.

Edward L. Sweda, Jr., Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project (TPLP), which is based at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, was delighted with today’s verdict. “Once again, a Florida jury has heard all the evidence in a tobacco trial and rendered a significant verdict for the plaintiff on behalf of a woman who was clearly addicted to nicotine, right up until her death from lung cancer. In addition, and not surprisingly, the jury assessed punitive damages as well to punish and deter Lorillard’s reprehensible conduct .”

Of the Engle Progeny trials that have reached a verdict, 25 out of 36 such verdicts have been for the plaintiffs.



Florida jury Returns multi-million verdict against tobacco companies

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

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

A jury in Gainesville, Florida today assessed punitive damages in the amount of $1.5 million against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) and another $1.5 million against Philip Morris (PM) in an Engle Progeny case. The same jury on Tuesday night awarded the family of John Huish $750,000 in compensatory damages, attributing 25% fault to RJR, 25% to Philip Morris and 50% to Mr. Huish. So, The compensatory damages award will be reduced by 50%.

Of the 35 Engle Progeny trials that have reached a jury verdict since February 2009, 24 have been plaintiff verdicts (69%).

Mr. Huish, who died of small-cell lung cancer in 1993 at the age of 64, had started smoking two decades before warning labels appeared on cigarette packs. He started smoking Lucky Strikes, followed by Camel, Chesterfield, Marlboro and then Marlboro Lights. Mr. Huish’s widow, Anna Louise Huish, brought the lawsuit and is represented by the West Palm Beach firm of Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. Attorney James Gustafson can be reached at 800-780-8607.

Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law (TPLP), Edward L. Sweda, Jr. was delighted with the verdict: “This jury was justifiably appalled by what it learned about the tobacco companies’ outrageous misconduct during the decades that John Huish was an addicted customer. Someone who is not addicted would not have smoked two or more packs per day for 46 years, as Mr. Huish did before succumbing to lung cancer.”

TPLP Director Mark Gottlieb noted that, “Jury after jury of ordinary folks have found the way that cigarette makers conduct their business is deserving of punishment. With thousands of these cases in the pipeline in Florida, it’s going to be a long slog for Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds.”

The Tobacco Products Liability Project is a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA. PHAI is an independent federally recognized non-profit charity.



Florida court of appeal affirms $28.3 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds; explicitly rejects RJR’s attempt to “essentially nullify” Florida Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Engle

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

In a resounding defeat for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the First District Court of Appeal of Florida affirmed a jury’s award of $5 million in compensatory damages (later reduced by the trial judge to $3.3. million because the jury found Benny Martin 34% responsible for his death from lung cancer in 1995) and $25 million in punitive damages.

As the court noted, the “crux of this appeal is the extent to which an Engle class member can rely upon the findings from the class action when she individually pursues one or more Engle defendants for damages.”   RJR attempted to “diminish the preclusive effect of the findings by claiming, based on the Phase I verdict form, that the findings ‘facially’ prove nothing specifically relevant to Mr. Martin’s claims.  In so doing, RJR urges an application of the supreme court’s decision that would essentially nullify it.  We decline to do so.”

Edward L. Sweda, Jr., Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Product’s Liability Project (TPLP), a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI), based at Northeastern University School of Law, called today’s decision the “worst nightmare for the tobacco defendants because the powerful Phase I findings will be applicable to Engle progeny trials in state court.”  Furthermore, the award of $25 million in punitive damages is entirely justified by what the court accurately described as the ‘evidence of decades-long wanton conduct by RJR…’”



Florida Jury Snaps Tobacco’s Recent Winning Streak with an $80 Million Award Against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Monday, November 15th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –  Contact: Edward L. Sweda, Jr. or Mark Gottlieb (617) 373-2026 or (617) 373-8462.

A Bronson, Florida (Levy County) jury today awarded $8 million in compensatory damages and another $72 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for its role in the lung cancer death of James Kayce Horner. Mr. Horner, who started smoking at the age of 17 in 1934 (decades before warning labels appeared on cigarette packages), smoked for over 60 years before dying of lung cancer on March 11, 1996, at the age of 78.

The jury determined that R.J. Reynolds had 90% responsibility for Mr. Horner’s death, and Mr. Horner 10%. Plaintiffs have now won 21 out of 32 Engle Progeny cases that have reached a verdict since February 2009. After eight consecutive defense verdicts in trials since August 2010, this jury clearly rejected the arguments made by defense law firm Jones Day.

Diane Webb, Mr. Horner’s daughter, is the plaintiff in a wrongful death action against the makers of Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Kool, Camel and Winston – the brands Mr. Horner smoked. Ms. Webb is represented by the West Palm Beach firm of Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. Attorney James Gustafson can be reached at 800-780-8607.

Attorney Gustafson told the jury that Mr. Horner was addicted to the drug nicotine, and that his addiction was why he sucked in cigarette smoke from 40 cigarette per day for 60 years. He smoked to avoid the withdrawal from nicotine.

Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law (TPLP), Edward L. Sweda, Jr. was delighted with the verdict: “This jury was justifiably appalled by what it learned about R.J. Reynolds’ outrageous misconduct during the decades that James Kayce Horner was an addicted customer. Today’s verdict is proportionate to that reprehensible wrongdoing by the company.”

TPLP Director, Mark Gottlieb, noted that, “while the tobacco companies have won a string of verdicts in recent weeks after a much longer string of defeats, this verdict shows that they clearly have their work cut out for them as they battle thousands of individual trials in Florida. ”

The Tobacco Products Liability Project is a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA.  It is an independent federally recognized non-profit charity.



Yet another plaintiff’s verdict in Florida: Piendle v. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

August 5, 2010

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

A Palm Beach, Florida jury today returned a verdict of $2.2. million against Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, on behalf of Liz Piendle, the widow of Charles Piendle, who died from lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 55. The jury assessed $4 million, but found Mr. Piendle to be 45% responsible while the two defendants were found to be 55% responsible (27.5% each) for his death; therefore, the $4 million figure was reduced to $2.2 million. The jury also found that Mr. Piendle was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, that his addiction was a legal cause of his lung cancer and death, that Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds placed “defective and unreasonably dangerous cigarettes” on the market and that “by clear and convincing evidence” punitive damages are warranted against both of the defendants.

The Piendle family is represented by Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley; Attorney Greg Barnhart can be reached at 561-686-6300.

Edward L. Sweda, Jr., Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project (TPLP), a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, was delighted with today’s verdict. “There have now been 19 plaintiff verdicts out of the 22 Engle Progeny cases that have gone to a full jury verdict. Today’s verdict is welcome news for the Piendle family as well as for all those who believe that corporate wrongdoers deserve to be held accountable for their reprehensible misconduct. We look forward to the jury’s assessment of punitive damages in this case, something designed both to punish those wrongdoers and to deter such misconduct in the future,” Sweda concluded.



11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated decision that would have eliminated preclusive effect of Engle Jury Phase I findings for progeny cases in federal court

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today, in Brown et al. v. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., vacated an August 28, 2008 order by U.S. District Court Judge Howard Schlesinger which had totally eliminated the preclusive effect of the Engle jury’s Phase I findings.

Now, with that roadblock having been cleared, federal court plaintiffs in Engle progeny cases have received a green light to have their cases proceed to trial. While the tobacco companies are today proclaiming “victory,” the order that would have given them an actual victory has, instead, been entirely vacated.

Essentially, the plaintiffs will need to demonstrate to the trial court, through the record of the Engle Phase I, that the jurors were truly making generalized findings because the defendants’ misconduct was rampant and continuous.  For example, see the part of the 1999 jury’s verdict sheet dealing with strict liability:

——-

Did one or more of the Defendant Tobacco Companies place cigarettes on the market that were defective and unreasonably dangerous?

Please answer “Yes” of “No” as to each Defendant, below. If you answer “yes” to any Defendants, please answer whether the conduct occurred during one of the following time periods:

Philip Morris, Incorporated                   Yes _X___    No __

Before July 1, 1974                                  Yes __X__    No __

After July 1, 1974                                     Yes __X__    No __

Both before and after July 1, 1974        Yes _X__    No __

——–

When the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that this finding should be given res judicata effect (for members of the class action who were to proceed in individual actions moving forward), the idea was that it would not be necessary for evidence to be presented to prove the same points about the product being defective and addictive and the cause of disease over and over again for each member of the class. This is the basis for issue preclusion.

The defendants argued in this case that the general findings of the Engle phase I jury were not specific enough to be given res judicata effect.  For example, their argument might be:

Who is to say that the Engle Phase I Jury didn’t simply mean that Philip Morris placed a couple of cartons of defective and unreasonably dangerous Marlboros on the market before and after July 1, 1974?   They did not say that the plaintiff in this case ever smoked any of those unreasonably dangerous and defective cigarettes.  Therefore, this plaintiff needs to prove that the cigarettes he smoked were defective and unreasonably dangerous to this jury.

They are free to make this argument or something like it to keep the jury from hearing what the findings were in phase I — and probably will — but the plaintiffs, under today’s ruling, only need to show that the jury was presented with persuasive and compelling evidence that  all of  the defendants’ cigarettes were dangerous and unreasonably dangerous during Phase I.

A total victory for the plaintiffs here would have prevented the defendants from making arguments such as the one above.  However, by allowing the issue preclusion with support from the record into the trials, it is likely that most courts will permit the juries to hear what the Phase I findings were, as the Florida Supreme Court had intended.



More Florida Verdicts against Cigarette Companies – Buonomo

Friday, May 21st, 2010

On May 20, 2010 after a three-week trial, a six-person Fort Lauderdale, Florida jury returned a verdict in favor of Connie Buonomo, the widow of Matthew Buonomo, who died from chronic obstructive lung disease in 2008 at the age of 80.Mr. Buonomo had started smoking as a teenager.

The defendant, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. was ordered to pay $5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages. After deliberating for five hours, the jury unanimously determined that R.J. Reynolds was 77.5 percent responsible for Mr. Buonomo’s death, compared with 22.5 percent responsibility for the deceased. Of the 19 “Engle Progeny” cases that have reached a jury verdict since February 2009, 16 of the verdicts have been for the plaintiffs.

See the Sun-Sentinel’s account.




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