Florida Engle Progeny Lawsuit Results in $23B Jury Award

Yet another Florida “Engle Progeny” lawsuit has resulted in a substantial damage award for the family of a former smoker diagnosed with lung cancer, with jury ordering R.J. Reynolds to pay a record-breaking $23.6 billion in punitive damages late last week.

The verdict came in a lung cancer lawsuit filed 18 years ago by Cynthia Robinson, following the death of her husband, Michael Johnson, at the age of 36, following 20 years of smoking addiction.

The verdict is believed to be the largest ever returned in a wrongful death lawsuit in Florida, but is latest in a number of lawsuits against tobacco companies that have resulted in huge damage awards against tobacco companies.

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The case is one of the so-called Engle progeny tobacco lawsuits, in which juries are being asked what amount of damages manufacturers should be required to pay for smoking addictions allegedly caused by decades of actively concealing the addictive and harmful health effects of smoking.

Thousands of cases have been proceeding to trial individually, after a 2006 decision by the Florida Supreme Court vacated a $145 billion judgment in a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of an estimated 700,000 smokers. Following the decision, class members were able to initiate separate lawsuits and use the liability findings from that trial.

Plaintiffs in the Florida Engle progeny smoker lawsuits are not required to establish liability against the cigarette makers, but still must prove that the injuries were caused by a smoking addiction.

Juries have shown a tendency to award substantial damages in light of the internal company reports, memos and other correspondence that reveal the steps tobacco company executives took to hide the cancerous effects of cigarettes, and to market cigarettes in a way that caused children to become addicted as early in life as possible.

Before the Johnson verdict, and with just two percent of the Engle progeny cases having gone to court, tobacco manufacturers have already been hit with $500 million worth of jury verdicts in the individual trials. This one verdict alone raises that total to more than $24 billion.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected a request by tobacco manufacturers to hear an appeal, which challenged the constitutionality of the Engle trial structure. As a result, individual cases are expected to continue to trial in the coming months and years.

In October 2013, Liggett Group announced a $110 million settlement to resolve virtually all of its Engle progeny cases, but the majority of the claims by the 700,000 Engle progeny smokers are to date unsettled.

Representatives for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the nation’s second largest cigarette company, say they are likely to appeal the verdict.

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  • MARKSeptember 21, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    OSIRIS ENGLE PROXY1 the lawsuite is THIER a list and do you have mark ira Engle on this list

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