Who’s afraid of Florida state court? Not Big Tobacco. At least not lately. After winning two defense verdicts Oct. 15 in Florida’s so-called Engle progeny cases, Philip Morris USA crowed in a press release that the company has now been cleared by four Florida juries in the last two weeks. If you count another win for R.J. Reynolds, tobacco defendants have won the last five Engle trials.
The industry needed some momentum. After the Florida Supreme Court issued a 2006 decision that decertified the historic Engle class and vacated an almost unfathomable $145 billion verdict against Big Tobacco, individual smokers have been going to trial in personal injury and wrongful death cases against tobacco defendants. The early results favored the plaintiffs, who benefited from the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling that they could rely on common facts established in the Engle class action trial, including the addictive nature of cigarettes and the industry’s attempts to conceal the dangers of smoking. Indeed, according to the Sunshine State News, plaintiffs have won 19 of 26 Engle progeny cases.