Court of appeals rules for tobacco company, overturns verdict for smoker

Reuters explains:

The ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses more than $800,000 in damages from R.J. Reynolds and Altria Group Inc unit Philip Morris USA Inc awarded in 2013 to Earl Graham, whose wife Faye, a longtime smoker, died in 1993 of lung cancer.

More broadly, the court said smokers who, like Graham, were originally part of a massive class action in Florida against the tobacco companies could not rely on findings from the class action trial to prove claims that cigarettes are defective and tobacco companies were negligent.

That class action, Engle v. Liggett, resulted in a $145 billion award, which was overturned. But the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 said smokers could use findings from the trial in their individual lawsuits. Thousands of lawsuits, known as the Engle progeny, were filed in Florida federal and state courts, resulting in multiple multimillion-dollar verdicts against tobacco defendants.

In the appeal, the tobacco companies argued that individual plaintiffs should not be able to rely on the jury findings from the class action. The court of appeals agreed. Its opinion is here.

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