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A jury in Miami-Dade awarded a $12.5 million verdict to a Ferraro Law Firm client who had filed an Engle progeny lawsuit against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds.
The case, CuCulino v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., does not represent the largest amount every awarded to those pursuing a Florida tobacco lawsuit, but it does show how plaintiffs in these cases can be successful in this sort of complex litigation.
The plaintiff had smoked Pall Mall cigarettes from 1958 to 1965, when he switched to Marlboro cigarettes, which he smoked until 2009.
Because he continued to smoke after receiving his diagnosis, the jury reduced the verdict by 60 percent, from $12.5 million to $5 million. This is still a substantial amount, which will aid the plaintiff and his family.
Engle progeny cases like this have an extensive history in Florida. In the case of Engle v. Liggett Group, the courts had originally awarded $145 billion in punitive damages to a class action group of plaintiffs who alleged harm by big tobacco companies. However, in 2006, the Florida Supreme Court tossed that verdict, decertifying the class on the grounds that legal causation, comparative fault and damages varied too greatly among class members.
Although Engle plaintiffs had to pursue claims individually from that point on, they were allowed to do so using the liability findings that had been established in the Engle case, meaning there is a lesser burden of proof for plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs in these cases have it already established that the tobacco industry engaged in fraud and deceit with regard to the negative health effects of their products.
In 2011, the state supreme court declined to review the first Engle progeny case that was appealed at that level, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Martin, wherein the jury had awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages to the widow of a man who died from smoking-related illness. That decision paved the way for numerous other cases to proceed in their fight for justice.
Last year, the tobacco companies appealed to federal courts to intervene in the Engle progeny cases, contending that it wasn’t fair that plaintiffs did not have to establish the industry’s defective design and marketing in each individual case. However, in Walker v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit declined to intervene, despite arguments from defendants that their due process had been violated.
To date, those Engle progeny cases that have been decided have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts against big tobacco. Thousands of additional Engle progeny cases await trial.
The Ferraro Law Firm handles tobacco litigation and product liability lawsuits nationwide. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.
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R.J. Reynolds v. Clay – $20M Tobacco Verdict Stands, Dec. 20, 2012, Florida Product Liability Lawyer Blog
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