Florida Jury: Philip Morris Not Negligent; Plaintiff Did Not Show Reliance

Florida Jury: Philip Morris Not Negligent; Plaintiff Did Not Show Reliance

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- (Mealey's) A Florida circuit court jury handed Philip Morris USA its sixth straight victory in an Engle progeny case Nov. 12, finding that the plaintiffs did not show reliance on the part of the decedent or negligence on the part of the company (Maria J. Espinosa v. Philip Morris USA, et al., No. 07-17357-CA, Fla. Cir., 11th Jud. Cir.).

The jury in the 11th Florida Judicial Circuit agreed that Maria Espinosa was addicted to tobacco but found that her death was not caused by Philip Morris' negligence or by the defective nature of the cigarettes and that she did not rely on any deceptive statement or act by Philip Morris.

The suit, tried before Judge Victoria Sigler, was brought by the sons of Espinosa.  Espinosa smoked mostly Virginia Slims for 46 years until her death, according to Courtroom View Network.

The verdict was the eighth consecutive victory for a tobacco company defendant in the class of Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc. (945 So.2d 1246 [Fla. Sup. 2006], cert denied, 128 S.Ct. 96 [2007]), which the Florida Supreme Court decertified in 2006 but allowed plaintiffs in the class to make use of certain factual findings.  The verdict also brought to a halt the winning streak of plaintiff attorney Alex Alvarez, who won $8 million in the first post-Engle trial (Elaine Hess v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. CACE07011513, Fla. Cir., 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.) and $26.6 million in Robin Cohen v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. (No. 07-11515, Fla. Cir., 17th Jud. Cir., Broward Co.).

Espinosa was the 30th Engle progeny case to be tried to a verdict in Florida state courts since 2009.  Defendants have won 11 of those cases, including eight in a row since August 2010.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the November issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Tobacco.  In the meantime, the verdict slip is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Document #04-101117-010V.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

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For more information, call editor Michael Lefkowitz at 215-988-7732, or e-mail him at michael.lefkowitz@lexisnexis.com.