Florida Supreme Court Denies Lorillard’s Petition for Review

lorillard-tobacco

A petition made by Lorillard Tobacco Company on September 9, 2014 has been denied, which further strengthens the ongoing Engle-Progeny battle against Big Tobacco.

The Florida Supreme Court just denied a petition seeking discretionary review of the Third District Court of Appeal’s decision in Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Alexander. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the wife of a man who died of lung cancer. The lawsuit was brought in state court in Miami-Dade County by Jordan Chaikin of Parker Waichman LLP along with co-counsel Alex Alvarez of The Alvarez Law Firm; Gary Paige of Gordon & Doner, P.A.; John Mills of The Mills Law Firm; and Robert Glazier of the Law Office of Robert S. Glazier.

Following a three-week trial, the jury found in favor of the wife whose claims against Lorillard included strict liability, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud by concealment, and negligence. The jury awarded $20 million in compensatory and $25 million in punitive damages. Ultimately, a compensatory damage figure for $10 million was reached. The Court wrote, “Because we find Lorillard’s multiple arguments on appeal without merit; the remitted compensatory damages award in the amount of $10 million and the punitive damages award in the amount of $25 million are neither excessive nor unconstitutional; and the compensatory and punitive damages awards are supported by the manifest weight of the evidence, we affirm.”

The case is part of the so-called “third round” in Florida’s “Engle litigation,” first filed in 1994 in Florida Supreme Court and involves thousands of individual lawsuits brought against cigarette companies. The lawsuits are believed to be more effectively resolvable individually due to the way in which the Court originally created the plan for how the cases would be tried, wrote ScotusBlog. The 1994 Engle case involved six individuals and eight claims of injustices allegedly made by tobacco firms against smokers, such as claims of fraud and that cigarettes are inherently dangerous due to their flawed designs.

Engle was originally filed as a nationwide class action on behalf of smokers who suffered or died from a smoking-related disease. The litigation was reduced to cover a class in Florida and was reduced, again, so as not to be a class action. Engle was ultimately expanded into the thousands of individual trials it represents today, known as the “third round,” wrote ScotusBlog. In the first case, the Florida courts created a legal plan under which the original case would be the one in which findings of fact and legal liability would be developed for all smokers and all types of cigarettes. The plan would become binding in later cases. The second round was meant to decide questions of liability for three of the class’s representatives and a question of punitive damages for the entire class.

The original Engle jury awarded the class $145 in punitive damages, which, with the class designation, were set aside by Florida’s Supreme Court. When the individual cases began to be tried in the third round, the original jury’s findings were binding. Following the state Supreme Court’s 2006 decision, more than 9,000 individual claims were brought and, over the next seven years, the tobacco industry has sought to have the High Court review the original Engle decision and Engle’s “progeny” lawsuits that followed, according to ScotusBlog. The Court continually denies these requests.

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