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Preview: LexisNexis® Mealey's™ Tobacco Legal News

LexisNexis® Mealey's™ Tobacco Legal News

Headline Tobacco Legal News from LexisNexis®


Florida Supreme Court: Federal Law Does Not Preempt Engle Progeny Claims
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court on April 6 affirmed a trial court's judgment in favor of an Engle progeny plaintiff after answering a certified question from a lower appellate court finding that federal law does not preempt negligence and strict liability claims because those claims do not hinder the sale of cigarettes, but go after the tobacco companies for their conspiracy to hide the dangers of smoking from the public (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Phil J. Marotta, No. SC16-218, Fla. Super., 2017 Fla. LEXIS 744).

Florida Panel Restores $32 Million Verdict In Tobacco Lawsuit
LAKELAND, Fla. - Recognizing that its ruling created a conflict with other appellate courts in Florida, a panel of the Second District Florida Court of Appeal on April 12 found that a trial court in an Engle progeny suit erred by reducing a compensatory award to a couple because a Florida statute governing negligence cases does not require compensatory awards to be reduced by the plaintiff's comparative fault (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Richard Boatright, et al., No. 2D15-622, Richard Boatright, et al. v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 2D15-1781, Fla. App. 2nd Dist., 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 5027).

Florida Jury Awards $1.8 Million To Plaintiff In Engle Progeny Suit
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A jury in Florida on March 31 found that three tobacco companies contributed to the addiction, lung cancer and death of a woman and awarded her husband $1.6 million in compensatory damages (Charles Santoro v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 2008-CV-025807, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir. Broward Co.).

Florida Jury Awards $1 Million To Widow In Engle Progeny Suit
MIAMI - A Florida jury on April 6 awarded the widow of a man who developed lung cancer and coronary artery disease (CAD) and died because of his addiction to cigarettes $1 million in compensatory damages (Steffany Sommers v. Philip Morris USA Inc., No. 13-2008-CA-001464-0000-01, Fla. 11th Cir. Miami-Dade Co.).

Widow, Cigarette Company Settle Over Punitives In Engle Progeny Suit
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - After a Florida jury awarded the husband of a woman who died from lung cancer related to cigarette smoking $3 million in compensatory damages on March 28, the attorneys for the widow and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on April 3 came to a confidential settlement over punitive damages before the jury had a chance to deliberate (James Whitmire v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2015-CA-002337, Fla. 2nd Jud. Cir. Leon Co.).

R.J. Reynolds Settles Engle Progeny Suit In Florida State Court
DADE CITY, Fla. - A woman who sued on behalf of her mother who died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) settled with a tobacco company before the jury was scheduled to hear closing arguments in a suit where the plaintiff claimed that the tobacco company hid the dangers of smoking from her mother that led to her illness and death (Linda Bean v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 2015-CA-000931, Fla. Cir., 6th Jud. Cir., Pasco Co.).

New York Federal Judge Finds For New York City, State In Untaxed Cigarette Suit
NEW YORK - A federal judge in New York on March 24 found that United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) is liable and will owe damages to New York City and New York state for shipping untaxed cigarettes to unauthorized sellers (The State of New York, et al. v. United Parcel Service Inc., No. 15-cv-1136, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43495).

Texas Appeals Panel: Tobacco Tax Does Not Violate U.S. Constitution
AUSTIN, Texas - On remand from the Texas Supreme Court, a state appellate panel on March 24 found that a tax enacted on nonparticipating manufacturers in a statewide tobacco settlement does not violate the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution and reversed summary judgment granted to the small tobacco companies (Glenn Hegar, et al. v. Texas Small Tobacco Coalition and Global Tobacco Inc., No. 03-13-00753-CV, Texas App., 3rd Dist., 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 2547).

Pennsylvania Department Of Revenue Urges Dismissal Of Tobacco Tax Suit
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue on April 3 filed a brief in Pennsylvania federal court supporting its motion to dismiss a suit over a tobacco tax, saying there is "no case or controversy to be decided" by the court (East Coast Vapor LLC v. Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, et al., No. 1:17-CV-0452, M.D. Pa.).

United States Sues Company Over Untaxed Cigarettes
NEW YORK - The United States filed suit on March 15 in the U.S. Court of International Trade, claiming that a Florida tobacco product importer has not paid more than $800,000 in federal excise taxes (FET) (The United States v. Mariola International Company, No. 17-00047, U.S. Int. Trade).

Heeding Presumption Rejected In Tobacco User's New York Asbestos Lung Cancer Trial
NEW YORK - A New York justice refused to impose a heeding presumption in an asbestos trial in an opinion posted March 20, saying that absent evidence that a cigarette user who ignored tobacco warnings would have acted differently in the asbestos context, she would not impose such a standard (Donna Castorina, et al. v. A.C.&S., et al., No. 123077/01, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).

Court: Causation Opinion Admissible, Punitives OK In $6.5M Asbestos Verdict
FRESNO, Calif. - A judge properly admitted expert testimony that every identifiable exposure to asbestos contributes to mesothelioma, a California appeals court held March 17, while also rejecting challenges involving tobacco use and an award of punitive damages (Charity Faith Phillips, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., No. F070761, Calif. App., 5th Dist.).

Federal Judge Dismisses Counterclaim In Tobacco Contract Suit
RENO, Nev. - A federal judge in Nevada on April 13 found that a cigar company that filed a counterclaim against the owner of several properties in Nevada failed to state a "cognizable" counterclaim in a suit where the property owner claimed that the cigar company failed to collect taxes on tobacco products as required by Nevada law (Wynn Las Vegas LLC v. Cigar Row LLC, No. 2:15-CV-01079, D. Nev., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56886).

Florida Jury Awards $5.4 Million To Family In Engle Progeny Suit
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A Florida jury on Feb. 14 awarded a total of $5.4 million to a family after finding that two tobacco companies were responsible for a woman's addiction to cigarettes, which led to her lung cancer and death (John Brown v. Philip Morris USA Inc., et al., No. 15-002451-CI, Fla. 6th Jud. Cir. Pasco Co.).

Florida Appeals Panel Orders New Trial In Engle Progeny Suit
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Florida appellate panel on Feb. 24 found that the attorneys for a woman who sued a tobacco company for the death of her husband made improper comments during closing arguments that violated a judge's order and ordered a new trial (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Cynthia Robinson, No. 1D15-0989, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 2535).

Florida Appeals Panel Affirms $18 Million Verdict In Tobacco Suit
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Florida appellate panel majority on Feb. 24 affirmed an $18 million verdict in an Engle progeny suit after finding that the trial judge did not err in failing to dismiss a juror and in not reducing the total award (R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. v. Andy R. Allen Sr., No. 1D15-4197, Fla. App., 1st Dist., 2017 Fla. App. LEXIS 2536).

Tobacco Company Seeks New Trial Following $6 Million Engle Progeny Verdict
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on March 10 moved for a new trial in an Engle progeny suit that resulted in a $6 million verdict, saying that the plaintiff introduced surprising and previously undisclosed testimony that her deceased husband suffered a heart attack before Nov. 21, 1996, and that the jury form likely confused and misled the jury about the findings it was required to make regarding her husband's membership in the Engle class (Blanche Fox v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 2008-CV-026348, Fla. 17th Jud. Cir. Broward Co.).

Florida Appellate Panel Affirms Summary Judgment In Tobacco Lawsuit
MIAMI - A Florida appellate panel on Feb. 22 affirmed a trial court's grant of summary judgment to a tobacco company in an Engle progeny suit in an opinion without any explanation (Carmen Stagg v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, et al., No. 3D16-157, Fla. App. 3rd Dist. Miami-Dade Co.).

Tobacco Companies Appeal $6 Million Verdict In Tobacco Suit
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. on Feb. 27 filed a notice of appeal with Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal over an Engle progeny suit in which the jury awarded the plaintiff $6 million (Philip Morris USA Inc., et al. v. Stanley Martin, No. 4D17-574, Fla. App., 4th Dist.).

Engle Progeny Plaintiff Moves For Extension To File For Rehearing
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A plaintiff in an Engle progeny suit on March 8 moved for an extension of time to file a motion for a rehearing or a written opinion following an order from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal that affirmed a defense verdict in a tobacco trial, according the online docket (Dorothy Haliburton v. R.J. Reynolds, No. 4D15-1819, Fla. App. 4th Dist.).

California Federal Judge Awards $2.1M In Attorney Fees To Tobacco Company
SANTA ANA, Calif. - A federal judge in California on Feb. 27 awarded a tobacco company $2.1 million in attorney fees in a suit brought by a tobacco company that alleged that another tobacco company violated the terms of a contract (Trendsettah USA Inc., et al. v. Swisher International Inc., No. 8:14-cv-01664, C.D. Calif., Southern Div.).

Pennsylvania Department Of Revenue Removes Vaping Tax Suit To Federal Court
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue on March 9 removed a suit in which it is accused of creating an overly broad list of e-cigarette and tobacco products under the Tobacco Products Act of Pennsylvania that are taxed to federal court in Pennsylvania because many of the claims are based in federal law (Kingdom Vapor, et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, No. 3:02-at-06000, M.D. Pa.).

Buyer Seeks To Litigate Tobacco Suit In Delaware Chancery Court
WILMINGTON, Del. - ITG Brands on Feb. 17 sued Reynolds American Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJRT) (collectively the Reynolds defendants) in the Delaware Chancery Court, seeking an injunction that would force the Reynolds defendants to dismiss their complaint against ITG in Florida state court over the sale of four cigarette brands to ITG Brands in conjunction with the Reynolds defendants' takeover of Lorillard Tobacco Co. ITG is seeking to resolve the claims in the Chancery Court (ITG Brands LLC v. Reynolds American Inc., et al., No. 2017-0129, Del. Chanc.).

7th Circuit: Indiana Law On E-Cigarette Manufacturing Is Unconstitutional
CHICAGO - A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Jan. 30 found that an Indiana law that regulates the manufacturing and distribution of vapor pens and liquids used in e-cigarettes violates the dormant commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, reversing a grant of summary judgment to the state and remanding to the trial court with instructions to declare the challenged provisions of the law unenforceable against out-of-state manufacturers (Legato Vapors LLC, et al. v. David Cook, et al., No. 16-3071, 7th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 1598).

Federal Judge In New York Grants Summary Judgment In Tobacco Tax Suit
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - A federal judge in New York on Jan. 23 granted summary judgment to a group of government officials and dismissed the complaints brought by two Native American nations with prejudice after finding that an amendment to a tax on Native American-made cigarettes does not violate the tribes' right to tribal sovereignty (Seneca Nation of Indians, et al. v. David Patterson, et al., No. 1:10-cv-00687, W.D. N.Y.; 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9060).

Illinois Judge Grants Partial Summary Judgment To Stores In Tobacco Tax Suit
CHICAGO - An Illinois judge on Jan. 20 found that a new tax Chicago imposed on tobacco products other than cigarettes violates an Illinois state law and granted partial summary judgment to a group of tobacco stores who sued the city (Iwan Ries & Co., et al. v. City of Chicago, et al., No. 2016-L-050356, Ill. Cir., Cook Co.).

Florida High Court Stays Review Of $17M Award Pending 2 Other Cases
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court on Feb. 7 stayed a case in which a jury awarded $5.7 million in compensatory damages and $11.6 million in punitive damages to the widow of a longtime smoker who alleged that his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer were caused by his addiction to cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris USA Inc. (Vickie McKeever, etc. v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., No. SC17-198, Fla. Sup.).

Florida Jury Finds For Tobacco Company In Tobacco Suit
SEBRING, Fla. - A Florida state jury on Feb. 8 rendered a verdict in favor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in an Engle progeny trial after it found that a woman who was addicted to cigarettes knew or should have known that she had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by the Engle claim cutoff date (Angela Durance v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 11-26-GCS, Fla. 10th Jud. Cir., Highlands Co.).

Federal Judge Remands Cigarette False Advertising Suit To D.C. Superior Court
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge in the District of Columbia on Feb. 8 remanded a false advertising suit against Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc. to a lower court after finding that it would be improper to consider the future brand value of its Natural American Spirit cigarettes when determining the cost of an injunction sought by an anti-smoking group and that the amount in controversy is not satisfied for federal jurisdiction (Breathe DC v. Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. Inc., et al., No. 1:16-cv-2378, D. D.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17562).

Suit Filed Over Exploding Vaping Device In California State Court
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - A man filed a product liability suit on Feb. 9 against a tobacco shop that sold him a vape and the makers of the vape and its parts after the device exploded and caused him to burn himself (Christopher Crowder v. Tobacco Expo, et al., No. RIC 1702394, Calif. Super., Riverside Co.).

Man Sues 2 Tobacco Companies For Death Of His Wife
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A widower of a woman who died from lung cancer filed suit in California state court on Feb. 8 against two tobacco companies, claiming that they knew about the dangers of smoking and did not warn the public about the dangers of smoking (Julian Engel v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., No. 34-2017-00207704, Calif. Super., Sacramento Co.).

Magistrate Judge: Migrant Tobacco Workers To Be Deposed In Mexico
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A federal magistrate judge in Kentucky on Feb. 3 found that the owners of a tobacco farm who were sued for allegedly violating federal work visa laws will not face an undue hardship by having to depose a group of migrant workers in Mexico, denying the owners' motion for a protective order that would prohibit the depositions from taking place in Mexico (Martin Rico Murillo, et al. v. Tracy Dillard, et al., No. 1:15-CV-00069, W.D. Ky., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15391).

Mexican Farm Workers Settle Employment Suit With Tobacco Farmer
LEXINGTON, Ky. - A federal judge in Kentucky on Feb. 6 signed a final order canceling a trial scheduled for March following an $81,308.71 settlement between a group of Mexican migrant workers who claimed that the owners of farms they worked at underpaid them and violated federal labor laws (Cecillo Gutierrez-Morales, et al. v. Earl Lee Planck Jr., et al., No. 5:15-cv-158, E.D. Ky.).