A Florida woman who sued the Lorillard Tobacco Company, the oldest tobacco company in the U.S., for the wrongful death of her husband, has been awarded $20 million by a Dade County jury. Dorothy Alexander had alleged that her husband, Coleman, died from small cell lung cancer as the result of his 40-year-addiction to cigarettes, including Kent brand cigarettes marketed by Lorillard.
Mrs. Alexander was represented in her lawsuit by Alex Alvarez of the Alvarez Law Firm, Gary Paige of the Paige Law Firm, and Jordan Chaikin, a partner with Parker Waichman LLP. According to a press release issue by Parker Waichman LLP, the jurors found that Lorillard was 80% responsible for Mr. Alexander’s death in 1995. They also agreed that his widow was entitled to punitive damages. That stage of the trial is slated to begin Tuesday in Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Dade County.
Mrs. Alexander’s lawsuit was one of thousands of tobacco injury lawsuits spawned by the Florida Supreme Court’s 2006 Engle Decision. Under the standard set by the Engle Decision, Mrs. Alexander only needed to prove that her husband was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine and that nicotine addiction was a legal cause of his death.
The so-called Engle case was a large class action lawsuit filed on behalf of Florida citizens who suffered from smoking-related illnesses in 1994. In 2000, a jury returned a verdict for the Engle plaintiffs, including $145 billion in punitive damages. But an appellate court overturned the jury’s decision and reversed the award in 2004.
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the appellate court decision and de-certified the class. However, the Supreme Court ruled that members of the original suit would be allowed to file individual lawsuits against tobacco companies. The Engle decision also stipulated that the issues already decided in the original class action lawsuit would hold true for the individual lawsuits. This includes the findings that tobacco products are defective, dangerous, addictive, and the cause of 16 major diseases. The decision also allowed findings that Big Tobacco had acted negligently, and had intentionally concealed information from consumers about the impact of cigarettes on their health to stand.