Tobacco companies, well-known for delaying tactics that drive up the cost of product liability litigation, appear to be targeting smoker cases filed in Miami, where the only physical connection is the plaintiffs law firm.
During oral argument Tuesday, counsel for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. asked that a circuit court judge’s order keeping a lawsuit in Miami be reversed because it is “inconvenient for the plaintiffs.”
Andrew Brenner, a Miami partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, acknowledged to Third District Court of Appeal Judge Linda Ann Wells that Reynolds was not claiming the venue was inconvenient to the defense.
The defendants—Reynolds, Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co.—want to transfer the case to Duval County, which was home to the family of the smoker, Barbara Meacham, who died 20 years ago.
Her daughter, Jacksonville nurse Lesia Mooney, is pursuing the case on her mother’s behalf. Meacham’s husband lives in Georgia.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake denied Reynolds’ motion for a change of venue April 1. However, on June 19, the Third District issued an opinion in Roy Hall v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in affirming a decision by Circuit Judge Ronald Dresnick that forced a plaintiff from Orlando to refile the case in Orange County.
The judges in Tuesday’s hearing appeared to have mixed feelings about backing away from the Hall reasoning.