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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Mealey’s) A federal judge issued a stay of proceedings in 415 Engle progeny cases Feb. 25 after the plaintiffs agreed to a $100 million aggregate settlement with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. (In re: Engle Progeny Cases, No. 3:09-cv-10000-WGY, M.D. Fla.).
(Order available. Document #04-150318-002R. List of cases available. Document #04-150318-003X.)
U.S. Judge William G. Young of the District of Massachusetts, who is overseeing the Engle cases in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, ordered the cases administratively closed for 90 days following approval of a process for distributing the settlement funds. The Engle class action 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 lexis.com subscribers]).
The court allowed approximately 700,000 class members to pursue individual claims using findings of fact from the original Engle trial.
R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris will each contribute $42.5 million to the settlement, while Lorillard will contribute $15 million. If approved, the settlement will dispose of virtually all of the remaining cases pending in the Middle District of Florida.
The judge said that the parties may reopen any of the cases “for any reason on or after Wednesday, May, 27, or prior to Wednesday, May 27, 2015, for good cause shown.”
Judge Young ordered the parties to continue processing the settlement of 181 additional cases “outside the tentative settlement as promptly as reasonably possible” and tolled proceedings in four other cases in which one or more defendants are pursuing attorneys’ fees and costs until final approval of the settlement.
The plaintiffs in the settled cases are represented by Motley Rice LLC in Mount Pleasant, S.C.; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein in San Francisco; The Wilner Firm in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Farah & Farah in Jacksonville.
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