Jury Rules For Philip Morris In 1st Federal Post-Engle Trial

Jury Rules For Philip Morris In 1st Federal Post-Engle Trial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - (Mealey's) A Florida federal court jury found for the defense Feb. 16 in the first federal tobacco trial based on the Florida Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc. (945 So.2d 1246 [Fla. Sup. 2006], cert denied, 128 S.Ct. 96 [2007]), according to a press release issued by Philip Morris USA Inc. (In re:  Engle Cases, No. 3:09-cv-10000-J-32HTS; Victoria Gollihue v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, et al., No. 3:09-cv-10530, M.D. Fla., Jacksonville Div.).

 

The company said the jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding that smoking "was not the medical cause of the injury." 

Virginia Gollihue had sued several tobacco companies in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleging that her husband, whose name is given as either Manuel or Ray Gollihue in court filings, died of lung cancer as the result of smoking the defendants' cigarettes.  Although the Florida Supreme Court decertified the Engle class, it permitted class members to go to trial individually with certain of the jury's liability findings having preclusive effect on the parties, including that:  

  • Smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer and other diseases;
  • Nicotine is addictive;
  • The Engle defendants, including Philip Morris USA Inc., placed cigarettes on the market that were defective and unreasonably dangerous;
  • The defendants concealed or omitted material information not otherwise known or available knowing that the material was false or misleading, or failed to disclose a material fact concerning the health effects or addictive nature of smoking cigarettes or both.
  • The defendants agreed to conceal or omit information regarding the health effects of cigarettes or their addictive nature with the intention that smokers in the public would rely on this information to their detriment. 

Petitions 

Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) have filed petitions for writs of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the preclusive provisions of Engle violate their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.  They say every plaintiff should have to prove every element of his or her case. 

U.S. Judges Roy B. Dalton, Timothy Corrigan and Marcia Morales Howard of the Middle District preside over more than 3,000 cases in which plaintiffs assert tobacco injury and death claims based Engle.  Including state court cases, an estimated 8,000 claims await resolution. 

Philip Morris and Lorillard Tobacco Co. are represented by Stanley D. Davis in Kansas City, Mo., Kenneth J. Reilly of Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Miami and James B. Murphy Jr. and Cecilia M. Bidwell of Shook Hardy in Tampa, Fla.  RJR is represented by Stephanie E. Parker and John F. Yarber of Jones Day in Atlanta and Robert B. Parrish and J.W. Prichard Jr. of Moseley, Prichard, Parrish, Knight & Jones in Jacksonville.  Liggett Tobacco Co. is represented by Kelly Anne Luther and Maria H. Ruiz of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in Miami. 

Gollihue is represented by Norwood S. Wilner, Stephanie J. Hartley, Richard J. Lantinberg and Janna B. Custer of Wilner Hartley & Metcalf and Charles Farah and Eddie Farah of Farah & Farah, both in Jacksonville.   

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