In a major victory for thousands of Floridians who are suing tobacco companies, a state appeals court on Tuesday issued the first opinion upholding the use of jury findings from a disbanded class action against the industry since smokers were cleared to pursue individual lawsuits against the industry. In a 25-page opinion, a unanimous three-judge panel sided with the widow of Lucky Strikes smoker Benny Martin and rejected an industry argument against using 10-year-old findings by a Miami jury as fact in subsequent smoker cases. The 1st District Court of Appeal also upheld a $28.3 million award against R.J. Reynolds.

Industry attorneys have argued trial judges have been misapplying a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that disbanded a statewide smoker class action but allowed individual suits. Those lawsuits are known as Engle progeny cases after the Miami Beach physician who was the lead class action plaintiff.

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