Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog

Florida Tobacco Certiorari Petitions Denied


The United States Supreme Court today denied R.J. Reynolds’ petition for a writ of certiorari in the federal Engle progeny litigation, along with petitions in nine state-court Engle progeny cases.

These were the latest in a series of certiorari petitions challenging the preclusive use of Florida class-action jury findings on the cigarette companies’ decades of misconduct, including their long-running conspiracy to conceal the health risks of smoking and their efforts to engineer cigarettes for the purpose of inducing and sustaining dangerous nicotine addiction.

Plaintiffs’ opposition brief of April 30, 2014, provided three reasons why the petitions had to be denied.

First, the Supreme Court’s past denials of certiorari in the same litigation–on petitions raising the same due process argument–foreclosed certiorari jurisdiction.

Second, R.J. Reynolds’ appeal from the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in Walker v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 734 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. 2013), constituted an impermissible collateral attack in federal court upon the final, binding state-court determinations on the preclusive effect of the common Engle findings.

Third, the due process inquiry in the application of state preclusion law focuses solely on notice and the opportunity to be heard. The cigarette companies received those core guarantees, both in the original class-action trial and in the follow-on cases now being tried to determine issues of class membership, causation, comparative fault, and damages.

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s denial of the petitions from the cigarette companies, Elizabeth Cabraser stated, “We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to deny certiorari in the federal Walker case and the nine state cases, which endorse a fair and efficient process for trials on smoker-specific causation and damages. We greatly appreciate the willingness of the state and federal courts to allow the Engle class — Florida smokers and their survivors harmed by smoking-related diseases back in the ’90s and before, in the era of concealment of tobacco addiction and its deadly consequences — to have their individual days in court.”