JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - (Mealey's) A Florida jury on May 19th found cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris is not liable for the death of a longtime smoker, marking the third defense victory among Engle progeny trials to date (Elsie Gil de Rubio, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Raymond Gil de Rubio, et al. v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., et al., No. 16-2007-CA-012167, Fla. Cir., 4th Judicial Cir., Duval Co.).
After her husband, Raymond, died allegedly from lung cancer caused by years of smoking cigarettes, Elsie Gil de Rubio became part of the class in the since-decertified Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc. (945 So.2d 1246 [Fla. Sup. 2006], cert denied, 128 S.Ct. 96 ) class action.
In the wake of the Florida Supreme Court's decision breaking up the class, Gil de Rubio filed an individual suit against Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR), Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group LLC and Vector Group Ltd. in the 14th Judicial Circuit Court for Duval County in December 2007, stating claims for negligence, strict liability, concealment/fraud and conspiracy. Only Philip Morris remained as a defendant at trial.
Trial began May 5 before Judge Charles O. Mitchell and lasted approximately two weeks. A source told Mealey Publications that the six-member jury deliberated "for a few hours" before returning a verdict in Philip Morris' favor, finding that the company is not liable for the decedent's death.
The jury answered no on the first question presented: whether the decedent had a primary lung cancer. It was not required to decide whether he was addicted to Philip Morris cigarettes and, if so, whether the addiction was a legal cause of his lung cancer and death.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the May issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Tobacco. In the meantime, the verdict form is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844. Document #04-100521-009V. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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