Friday, March 19, 2010

Florida's Third District Court of Appeals Upholds $24 Million Tobacco Verdict

The Third District Court of Appeal in Florida unanimously upheld a $24.8 million verdict against Phillip Morris USA, Brown & Williamson, and Liggett Group.  It's the first appellate ruling upholding a verdict since the Florida Supreme Court dismantled the Engle class action.  (The appeal to the Eleventh Circuit in Engle is still pending.)

Here's an excerpt from The Daily Business Review's article on the case:

With Lukacs dying, his attorneys sued and pushed for a quick trial in 2002 instead of forcing their cancer-ridden client to wait for the Supreme Court ruling. 

"He wanted his day in court, and the only way to obtain his day in court was to try the case before the Florida Supreme Court made its decision," said Alters Boldt Brown Rash special counsel Bruce Rogow, who argued the appeal for Lukacs' family. 

The jury awarded Lukacs' widow, Yolanda, a total of $37.5 million in 2002. The award was later reduced to $24.8 million. 

Tobacco attorneys appealed, challenging trial decisions and insisting smoker trials could not proceed without a Supreme Court directive. 

The 3rd DCA decision cited the Supreme Court ruling, which allowed smokers to pursue individual lawsuits and offer the original jury's findings as fact. New juries are advised to accept that smoking causes cancer and other illnesses, cigarettes are addictive and tobacco companies defrauded consumers by misleading them. 

"It sends a clear message that Engle is the guiding light in Florida tobacco litigation," Rogow said.


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