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A Florida appeals court has announced it will not hear any morearguments about its decision to throw out a record-setting $145 billionverdict won by a group of Florida smokers against some of the nation’slargest cigarette companies. In an order dated Monday, the three judges who issued a May ruling thatalso decertified the smokers’ class denied a plaintiffs’ motion forrehearing as well as a motion to certify the case to the Florida SupremeCourt as an issue of great public importance. The panel consisted of 3rd District Court of Appeal Judges DavidGersten, David Levy and Mario Goderich. The court also denied a motion to rehear the case en banc. That part ofthe order was signed by Chief Judge Alan Schwartz and Judges MelviaGreen, John Fletcher, Robert Shevin, Juan Ramirez Jr., Linda Ann Wells,Gersten, Levy and Goderich. Judges Gerald Cope and Frank Shepherd recused themselves. The order did not say why the court declined to take another look. “We are very pleased and gratified by the court’s ruling,” said ElliotScherker, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in Miami who representedthe tobacco companies in the appeal. The remaining option for Miami lawyers Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, thehusband and wife who represented the estimated 700,000 class members, isto seek review by the Florida Supreme Court. But the only way the highcourt can take jurisdiction is for the Rosenblatts to prove that the 3rdDCA’s opinion conflicts with another appellate district, legal expertssay. “The 3rd District’s decision is based on very well-establishedprincipals of law,” Scherker said. “We are confident that there is nobasis for a claim of conflict.” If the Florida Supreme Court denies review, the Rosenblatts can petitionthe U.S. Supreme Court. Stanley Rosenblatt declined comment, but in court papers, heaccused Judge Gersten of lifting entire passages of arguments submittedto the court by the industry, and using the language as the basis fortossing the verdict. In May, the 3rd DCA overturned the $145 billion verdict in the classaction brought on behalf of Miami Beach pediatrician Howard Engle andfive other lead plaintiffs. The appeals court ruled that the claims ofeach class-member were too unique to be tried collectively. In so ruling, the court effectively reversed itself. In 1996, the DCAdecided that the Engle case should be allowed to proceed as a class. The plaintiffs had alleged they were the victims of an industry fraudand conspiracy to cover up the health effects of smoking. As a result,they were unable to stop smoking because they were addicted to nicotineand developed medical problems ranging from cancer and heart disease.The defendants included Philip Morris, the Liggett Group, Brown &Williamson, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds Co. Filed in 1994 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the case ended in July 2000with the largest punitive damage award in U.S. history. But the 3rd DCAsaid that the $145 billion verdict was improper because it wouldbankrupt the companies. The court also took issue with the trial plan, which allowed the jury toaward classwide punitive damages before determining the injuries to eachindividual member. And it criticized Rosenblatt for allegedly makingimproper, race-based appeals to the predominantly black jury duringclosing arguments.

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