Florida Appeals Court Vacates $79.2 Million Verdict In Tobacco Death Case

Florida Appeals Court Vacates $79.2 Million Verdict In Tobacco Death Case

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - (Mealey's) A $79.2 million verdict on behalf of the daughter of a smoker who died from lung cancer was vacated as excessive on April 9 by the First District Florida Court of Appeal (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, v. Diane Webb, No. 10-6557, Fla. App., 1st Div.). 

(Opinion. Document #04-120418-009Z.)


The panel said the $7.2 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded in 2010 was twice what the plaintiff had sought and assigned only half of the comparative fault, which the plaintiff admitted during closing argument "suggests the jury was influenced by prejudice or passion." 

Combined with the $72 million punitive damages award, the verdict had no precedent for its magnitude, the panel said.  It reviewed the aspects of plaintiff Diane Webb's biography that it found ignited the jury's passion and ruled that Levy County Circuit Court Judge Stanley H. Griffis III abused his discretion by not granting remittitur or a new trial on damages. 

The 2010 jury award was for the wrongful death of James Cayce Horner, who had smoked cigarettes made by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR).  The jury found Horner 10 percent responsible for his death and R.J. Reynolds 90 percent responsible.  It found RJR negligent, that cigarettes were an unreasonably dangerous product placed on the market and that RJR's concealment or omission of the health effects of smoking were a legal cause of Horner's death. 

Webb filed suit after the death of her father, and the case came before Judge Griffis.  Her father died in 1996 at age 78 "after a long battle against lung cancer," plaintiff firm Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley said.  He had started smoking in 1934 at 17 and smoked for more than 60 years until he died March 11, 1996, Searcy Denney said.  Horner smoked the Reynolds brands Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Kool, Camel and Winston, the firm said. 

Horner began smoking when cigarette manufacturers openly marketed cigarettes to children and teenagers, the firm said.

 Chief Judge Robert T. Benton II wrote the opinion, with Judges William A. Van Nortwick Jr. and Ronald V. Swanson concurring. 

Webb is represented by James Gustafson of Searcy Denney in West Palm Beach, Fla., David Sales of Jupiter, Fla., and Steven L. Brannock, Celene H. Humphries and Tyler K. Pitchford of Brannock & Humphries in Tampa, Fla.  RJR is represented by Harold Gordon of Jones Day in New York, Stephanie E. Parker of Jones Day in Atlanta, Theodore M. Grossman of Jones Day in Cleveland and Robert B. Parrish, David C. Reeves, Jeffrey A. Yarbrough and Andrew J. Knight of Moseley, Prichard, Parrish, Knight & Jones in Jacksonville, Fla. 

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  • 04-10-2012

Stem cells are “non-specialized” cells that have the potential to form into other types of specific cells, such as blood, muscles or nerves. They are unlike "differentiated" cells which have already become whatever organ or structure they are in the body. Stem cells are present throughout our body, but more abundant in a fetus. Medical researchers and scientists believe that stem cell therapy will, in the near future, advance medicine dramatically and change the course of disease treatment. This is because stem cells have the ability to grow into any kind of cell and, if transplanted into the body, will relocate to the damaged tissue, replacing it. For example, neural cells in the spinal cord, brain, optic nerves, or other parts of the central nervous system that have been injured can be replaced by injected stem cells. Various stem cell therapies are already practiced, a popular one being bone marrow transplants that are used to treat leukemia. In theory and in fact, lifeless cells anywhere in the body, no matter what the cause of the disease or injury, can be replaced with vigorous new cells because of the remarkable plasticity of stem cells. Biomed companies predict that with all of the research activity in stem cell therapy currently being directed toward the technology, a wider range of disease types including cancer, diabetes, spinal cord injury, and even multiple sclerosis will be effectively treated in the future. Recently announced trials are now underway to study both safety and efficacy of autologous stem cell transplantation in MS patients because of promising early results from previous trials. History Research into stem cells grew out of the findings of two Canadian researchers, Dr’s James Till and Ernest McCulloch at the University of Toronto in 1961. They were the first to publish their experimental results into the existence of stem cells in a scientific journal. Till and McCulloch documented the way in which embryonic stem cells differentiate themselves to become mature cell tissue. Their discovery opened the door for others to develop the first medical use of stem cells in bone marrow transplantation for leukemia. Over the next 50 years their early work has led to our current state of medical practice where modern science believes that new treatments for chronic diseases including MS, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and many more disease conditions are just around the corner. There are a number of sources of stem cells, namely, adult cells generally extracted from bone marrow, cord cells, extracted during pregnancy and cryogenically stored, and embryonic cells, extracted from an embryo before the cells start to differentiate. As to source and method of acquiring stem cells, harvesting autologous adult cells entails the least risk and controversy. Autologous stem cells are obtained from the patient’s own body; and since they are the patient’s own, autologous cells are better than both cord and embryonic sources as they perfectly match the patient’s own DNA, meaning that they will never be rejected by the patient’s immune system. Autologous transplantation is now happening therapeutically at several major sites world-wide and more studies on both safety and efficacy are finally being announced. With so many unrealized expectations of stem cell therapy, results to date have been both significant and hopeful, if taking longer than anticipated. What’s been the Holdup? Up until recently, there have been intense ethical debates about stem cells and even the studies that researchers have been allowed to do. This is because research methodology was primarily concerned with embryonic stem cells, which until recently required an aborted fetus as a source of stem cells. The topic became very much a moral dilemma and research was held up for many years in the US and Canada while political debates turned into restrictive legislation. Other countries were not as inflexible and many important research studies have been taking place elsewhere. Thankfully embryonic stem cells no longer have to be used as much more advanced and preferred methods have superseded the older technologies. While the length of time that promising research has been on hold has led many to wonder if stem cell therapy will ever be a reality for many disease types, the disputes have led to a number of important improvements in the medical technology that in the end, have satisfied both sides of the ethical issue. CCSVI Clinic CCSVI Clinic has been on the leading edge of MS treatment for the past several years. We are the only group facilitating the treatment of MS patients requiring a 10-day patient aftercare protocol following neck venous angioplasty that includes daily ultrasonography and other significant therapeutic features for the period including follow-up surgeries if indicated. There is a strict safety protocol, the results of which are the subject of an approved IRB study. The goal is to derive best practice standards from the data. With the addition of ASC transplantation, our research group has now preparing application for member status in International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS), the globally-active non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement of cell-based medical therapies through education of physicians and researchers, patient safety, and creating universal standards. For more information please visit http://www.neurosurgeonindia.org/