Products Liability Law Daily Philip Morris must pay widow $350,000 in Engle progeny case
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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Philip Morris must pay widow $350,000 in Engle progeny case

By Susan Lasser, J.D.

A Florida jury has awarded $350,000 to the widow of a deceased smoker after finding the decedent mostly at fault for his lung cancer. While smoking cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris USA, Inc. was determined to be a legal cause of the decedent’s lung cancer, the jury said that his lung cancer was not the legal cause of his death (McCall v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., March 2, 2016).

According to the widow’s complaint filed against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, Inc., and Lorillard Tobacco Company, her husband was an Engle class member and entitled to the Phase I findings in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006). She also asserted that the tobacco companies placed cigarettes on the market that were defective and unreasonably dangerous; and that they concealed or omitted material information not otherwise known or available knowing that the material was false or misleading, and/or failed to disclose a material fact concerning the health effects or the addictive nature of smoking cigarettes. She claimed that smoking one or more of the defendants’ cigarettes and his addiction to cigarettes caused her husband’s lung cancer, and that he died as a result of the disease. The complaint asserted strict liability, fraud by concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud by concealment, and negligence claims against the cigarette makers.

Jury findings. The widow’s claims against Philip Morris were tried to a Florida state jury. The jury determined that the decedent was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine and that the addiction was a legal cause of his lung cancer. While his lung cancer was found not to be a legal cause of his death, the jury said that smoking cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris was a legal cause of the decedent’s lung cancer.

In addition, the jury answered no to the question of whether the decedent reasonably relied to his detriment on any statement made by Philip Morris concealing or omitting material information not already known or available to the decedent concerning the health effects and/or addictive nature of smoking cigarettes, and, if so, whether that reliance was a legal cause of the decedent’s lung cancer. Thereby, the jury declined to find for the widow on the fraud by concealment claim. It also rejected the conspiracy to commit fraud by concealment claim, answering no on the question of whether the decedent reasonably relied to his detriment on any statement made in furtherance of Philip Morris’s agreement with other tobacco companies or organizations to conceal or omit material information concerning the health effects and/or addictive nature of smoking cigarettes, and, if so, whether such reliance was a legal cause of the decedent’s lung cancer.

Fault and damages. The jury determined that there was fault on the decedent’s part that was a legal cause of his lung cancer. The decedent was found to be 75 percent at fault for his lung cancer, while the jury found Philip Morris to be 25 percent at fault for the decedent’s disease.

Finally, the jury awarded $175,000 for the total damages sustained by the decedent, as a result of his lung cancer only, for his pain, suffering, disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, up until his death. Similarly, for the total amount of damages sustained by the decedent’s wife for the loss of companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering as a result of his lung cancer up until his death, the jury awarded $175,000.

The case is No. 2007-CV-36888 (19).

Attorneys: Alex Alvarez (Alvarez Law Firm) and Jordan Chaikin (The Chaikin Law Firm) for Bernice McCall. William Geraghty (Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP) and Andrew Brenner (Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP) for Philip Morris USA, Inc.

Companies: Philip Morris USA, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory JuryVerdictsNewsStory DamagesNews TobaccoProductsNews FloridaNews

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