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Florida Jury Awards Smoker $26 Million In COPD Suit Against Philip Morris

FORT MYERS, Fla.  — (Mealey’s) A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on Sept. 16 awarded $20 million in punitive damages to a woman who alleged that her chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD) was caused by her years of smoking  (Judith Berger v. Philip Morris USA, et al., No. 3:09-cv-14157-WGY-HTS, M.D. Fla.). 

(Jury verdict form available.  Document #04-141015-001V.  Phase Two jury verdict form available.  Document #04-141015-002V.

The award came after the same jury on Sept. 12 found that Judith Berger was addicted to cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris USA and that her addiction was a legal cause of her disease.  The jury assessed Berger with 40 percent responsibility for her condition.  The jury also found for Berger on the issues of misrepresentation and conspiracy.  The suit originally named R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Liggett Group LLC and Lorillard Tobacco Co. in addition to Philip Morris.  Philip Morris contended that Berger was not addicted to cigarettes. 


The case is part of the Engle class action, which was decertified after trial in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court (Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 [Fla. 2006] [enhanced opinion available to subscribers]). The court allowed approximately 700,000 class members to pursue individual claims using findings of fact from the original Engle trial.  

Trial got under way on Sept. 2 before Judge James G. Carr. 

Berger is represented by Elizabeth J. Cabraser, Richard Heimann, Robert J. Nelson and Sarah R. London of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco.; Joseph F. Rice, Frederick C. Baker, Donald A. Migliori, Nathan D. Finch, Vincent I. Parrett, James W. Ledlie, Elizabeth Smith, Lance V. Oliver, Rebecca M. Deupree and Lisa M. Saltzburg of Motley Rice in Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and Norwood S. Wilner, Janna B. Blasingame and Richard J. Lantinberg of The Wilner Firm in Jacksonville, Fla.  Philip Morris is represented by Mark J. Heise of Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami; Keri L. Arnold of Arnold & Porter in New York; M. Sean Laane of Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C.; and Robert D. Homolka of Shook Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City, Mo. 

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