TAMPA, Fla. -- After awarding $100,000 in compensatory damages to a longtime smoker who had his larynx and part of his tongue removed as a result of laryngeal cancer, a Florida jury on Feb. 11 added $250,000 in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in a post-Engle case (Leroy Kirkland v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 08-CA-673, Fla. Cir.,13th Jud. Cir.).
After trial before Circuit Judge William Levens of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa, the jury on Feb. 10 found for plaintiff Leroy Kirkland, 71, on all questions - he was a member of the Engle class, smoking cigarettes was a legal cause of Kirkland's laryngeal cancer and R.J. Reynolds' deception was a legal cause of injury. It awarded Kirkland $60,000 for past pain and suffering and $40,000 for future pain and suffering but also found him 90 percent at fault, suggesting that he will receive only $10,000 in compensation from the compensatory damages award.
Kirkland started smoking when he was 11 years old, according to a published report, and smoked between a pack and a half and three packs a day for 40 years.
"Engle progeny" refers to cases stemming from Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc. (945 So. 2d 1246 [Fla. 2006]), a class action lawsuit originally filed against cigarette makers in 1994. The class was decertified after a $145 billion punitive damages verdict, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the thousands of individual cases could proceed using liability findings from the class trial.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the February issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Tobacco. In the meantime, the compensatory damages verdict slip is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844. Document #04-110216-016V. Punitive damages slip. Document #04-110216-018V. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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