Florida Tobacco Lawsuit | Levin Papantonio | Personal Injury Attorneys

Tobacco Cases Resource Center

Tobacco Cases in a Nutshell.

In December 2006 the Florida Supreme Court breathed new life into a case against the tobacco industry that had worked its way through the courts since 1994. The case is known as the Engle case.

The supreme court upheld a landmark jury verdict finding Big Tobacco liable for smoking-related injuries and deaths, but the court said that smokers and their loved ones must bring individual suits in order to prove that smoking harmed them and to prove their individual damages. The deadline for filing Engle lawsuits now has passed.

In addition to such lawsuits being brought, Big Tobacco created a fund that was paid out to qualifying class members. The deadline for participating in the distribution of that fund also has passed.

Levin Papantonio is in the forefront of the fight against Big Tobacco.

What Exactly Does the Engle Case Mean?

After a year-long trial, the Engle jury found that:

  • Cigarettes are unreasonably dangerous;
  • Cigarettes cause numerous types of cancer;
  • Nicotine is addictive;
  • Big Tobacco has acted negligently; and
  • Even though they knew about these dangers, tobacco companies intentionally concealed information from consumers about the impact of cigarettes on their health.

The jury also found that smoking causes (among other diseases):

  • Lung cancer;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
  • Emphysema; and
  • Buerger's disease

The Florida Supreme Court upheld all of these findings and said that in any individual Engle suits, these jury findings would apply and would not have to be proven again. Florida's trial courts have followed this ruling and applied the findings in each of the trials thus far.

The Florida Supreme Court also did the following:

  • Reversed a jury's award of $145 billion in punitive damages against the tobacco industry.
  • Opened the door for separate, individual Engle suits - rather than a class action lawsuit - which then would be decided on the basis of each victim's own unique circumstances, case by case.
  • Limited the group of tobacco victims eligible to file individual Engle suits to all Florida citizens and residents, and their survivors, who have suffered, presently suffer or who have died from diseases and medical conditions caused by their addiction to cigarettes that contain nicotine with a cutoff date of November 21, 1996.

Although the Engle decision refused to reinstate a $145 billion punitive damage award against Big Tobacco, it opened the door for individual Engle suits to be brought. All such suits now have been filedabout 8,000--and are working their way through the courts.

In Escambia County, all cases (approximately 80) have been coordinated before Chief Judge Terry Terrell. Judge Terrell organized the cases so that the most elderly plaintiffs would obtain the earliest trial dates. Levin Papantonio lawyers Bobby Loehr and Matt Schultz tried and won the first such case in May 2009. Since then, five more trials have taken place. All have averaged three to four weeks in length, and all resulted in substantial verdicts for plaintiffs.

Cigarettes and Kids

Here you will find links to fact sheets and other information provided by public health authorities and public interest groups:  

Smoking and Kids: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0001.pdf

Tobacco Use Among Youth: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0002.pdf

How Parents Can Protect Their Kids: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0152.pdf

Big Tobacco Still Addicting Kids: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/

Women and Girls and Tobacco: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0137.pdf

Camel No. 9 Cigarette-Marketing Campaign Targeted Young Teenage Girls: http://www.cafeiowacan.org/docs/Camel-No-9-Pediatric-Study.pdf

Big Tobacco's Guinea Pigs: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/reports/products/


IN THE NEWS: Tobacco related articles

  • November 26, 2012: U.S. Supreme Court rejects another bid by Big Tobacco to accept an Engle case and dismantle the litigation.
  • March 26, 2012: Supreme Court of the United Stated States declined review of Martin vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Gray vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, finally ending these two Levin Papantonio cases and leading to the first payments in Florida to Engle progeny plaintiffs.
  • February 24, 2012:   Levin Papantonio completes briefing in the Supreme Court of the United Stated States in the first Engle appeal to reach the Supreme Court---Martin vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. RJR has asked the Supreme Court to grant review of the the $28.3 million verdict entered against it in 2009 (as well as a subsequent $6.3 million verdict obtained by Levin Papantonio in the case of Gray vs. R.J. Reynolds). Attorneys Bobby Loehr and Matt Schultz of Levin Papantonio (with appellate counsel Bob Peck of Washington, D.C.) have asked the Supreme Court to decline review of the cases, which would allow the verdicts to stand. The Supreme Court's decision on whether to take the cases is expected this spring. The Martin docket may be viewed here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/11-754.htm
  • January 26, 2012:   Levin Papantonio attorney Matt Schultz and attorney Jimmy Gustafson (Searcy, Denny firm) win a $2.7 million verdict in Escambia County against R.J. Reynolds and Liggett Group on behalf of their client Don Ward, whose wife of nearly 50 years died from smoking-related COPD. The jury found that the defendants' conspiracy to defraud the American public was a cause of Ms. Ward's death and awarded punitive damages against RJR for its reprehensible conduct over the course of nearly half a century.
  • October 6, 2011:   Big Tobacco continues to reap billions.
    The investment site 24/7 Wall St. recommends three tobacco giants among its top 10 "recession proof" investments. Revenues of Lorillard, Altria (Philip Morris), and RAI (R.J. Reynolds) total nearly $20 billion in just the first half of 2011.
  • 07-20-11:  Florida Supreme Court Blocks Tobacco Appeal
    In a decision with huge implications for lawsuits against tobacco companies, the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear R.J. Reynolds’ appeal of a $28.3 million verdict in the death of a Panhandle smoker.
  • 06-01-10: U.S. Cigarette Brands Tops in Cancer Causing Chemicals
    Smokers of U.S. brand cigarettes may get more bang for their buck in the worst way according to a small study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found U.S. made cigarettes contain more cancer-causing chemicals than some cigarettes brands made elsewhere around the world. Not all cigarettes are made alike says Dr. Jim Pirkle, deputy director for science at the CDCs National Center for Environmental Health. He says this is the first study to show that U.S. cigarettes have more of the major carcinogen [TSNAs] than foreign made cigarettes." TSNAs are tobacco-specific nitrosamines, the major cancer-causing substance in tobacco.
  • 02-25-10: Big Tobacco and the Historians
    The Nation
    Last summer Robert Proctor, a Stanford professor who studies the history of tobacco, was surprised to receive court papers accusing him of witness tampering and witness intimidation, along with a subpoena for his unfinished book manuscript. Then in January he got another subpoena, this one for three years of e-mails with a colleague, and also for his computer hard drive. Attorneys for R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris USA are trying to get him barred from testifying in a Florida court as an expert witness on behalf of a smoker with cancer who is suing the companies.
  • 02-22-10: Tobacco Company Marketing To African Americans
    Foster Folly News (Chipley, FL)
    The following was issued by the Washington County Health Department) "We don't smoke that s_ _ _. We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and stupid." R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Executive
  • 02-09-10: LP Client Obtains $9.2M Jury Award Against RJ Reynolds
    Law360, New York
    By Erin Marie Daly -- A Florida jury has ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to fork over $9.2 million in damages to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer after smoking for nearly 50 years, finding that the tobacco giant fraudulently concealed information relating to the health effects of cigarettes.
  • 01-27-10: Lively Arguments in Tobacco Case Center on Preclusive Effect of Factual Findings
    In a lively and complex Gordian Knot of an argument before a federal appeals court on Tuesday, lawyers for the nation's largest tobacco companies wrangled with attorneys for a woman whose husband died of lung cancer over whether factual findings in a 2006 Florida state case may be applied in some 4,000 federal death and injury suits.
  • 11-02-09: Stanford Historian Robert Proctor vs. R.J. Reynolds: A Lot on the Line 
    PR Watch
    History is unkind to tobacco companies, and never more so than since a federal court in 2006 found the industry guilty of perpetrating 50 years of fraud and deceit upon the American people. It's a sordid history to live down, and maybe that's why R.J. Reynolds is harassing one of the few historians who has been willing to step up and testify in court about the real history of the tobacco industry's behavior: Professor Robert N. Proctor of Stanford University.
  • 09-28-09: Florida Kids Can Breathe Easier as Flavored Cigarettes Get the Boot
    Public News Service (PNS)
    Federal regulators now have more authority to control what goes into cigarettes, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is flexing its new muscle by banning most flavored cigarettes from being made, imported, distributed or sold in the United States. Such spice flavors as cloves are now forbidden, as are fruit and candy flavors, though menthol is exempt from the ban.
  • 09-23-09: Not for Sale: Big Tobacco's Sweet Tooth for Addiction
    Wakulla News (Crawfordville, FL)
    Did you know that the tobacco companies are continuing to fool our children into getting hooked on tobacco at an early age? All of the tobacco companies are making tobacco products with cool and tasty favors and with vibrant colors to draw our children attention. Here is a list of a few of the products on the shelves: * RJ Reynolds, who formerly used cartoon character Joe Camel to market their products, has a new line of flavored Camel cigarettes with names like Twista' Lime, and seasonal flavored cigarettes like Bayou Blast Mardi Gras Berry Blend.
  • 06-02-09: RJ Reynolds Ordered To Pay Smoker's Widow $30M
    Law360, New York
    A Florida jury has ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to hand over $30 million to a Florida widow whose husband died of lung cancer in 1995, in one of the first of many similar product liability and wrongful death suits against Big Tobacco to go to trial.
  • 01-11-08: Florida Tobacco Cases Filed
    Law360 New York, NY
    Levin Papantonio attorney Matt Schultz is interviewed about recent lawsuit filings following the Supreme Court tobacco class action decision RJ Reynolds v. Engle.  
  • 02/12/07: Tobacco Industry Pressure Keeps Cheap Smokes Available to Military
    UCSF News Office - San Francisco, CA, USA
    Based on their examination of tobacco industry documents, searches of military websites and news databases, and interviews with principal informants, ... .
  • 01-18-07: Nicotine in US Cigarettes Rising - Study
    A Harvard researcher commented cigarette makers increased nicotine in tobacco and altered the cigarette design to boost the number of puffs per cigarette, which increases the amounts of nicotine inhaled by smokers. Although, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention considers cigarette smoking the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, there are about 440,000 people that die each year smoking related illnesses.
  • 08-30-06: U.S. Report: More Nicotine in Cigarettes
    Recent study shows nicotine levels in cigarettes are on the rise as simulated smoking tests cigarettes over the years. Up from 1998, 93 percent of the 179 cigarette brands tested in 2004 fell into the “highest range for nicotine.”