Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog

Jurors Hold Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds Accountable for Engaging in 50-Year Conspiracy Damages Totaling $41.1 Million Returned in Florida Federal Court

Attorney Kenneth Byrd of the Nashville office of national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, announced that a jury in federal court in Florida today returned a verdict of $41.1 million against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for conspiring for decades to conceal the hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes. The jury award consists of $15.8 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages in the amounts of $15.7 million against Philip Morris and $9.6 million against RJ Reynolds.

In 1956, plaintiff Kenneth Kerrivan, a resident of Lake Panasoffkee, Florida, began smoking when he was 14 years old. Because of his addiction to nicotine from cigarettes, he developed severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 1993. Mr. Kerrivan tried numerous options to quit smoking, including acupuncture, nicotine gum and the patch and was unsuccessful until 2006. Mr. Kerrivan needs oxygen from an oxygen tank 24 hours a day.

Kenneth Byrd, lead trial counsel for Mr. Kerrivan, said, “We are pleased that the jury held Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds accountable for their calculated choice to target children, such as Mr. Kerrivan, to take up smoking.”

At the trial, evidence was introduced showing that 90 percent of daily cigarette smokers start smoking as teenagers and that the tobacco industry targeted youth for this very reason. The earlier one takes up smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted and the stronger that addiction. Further evidence showed that defendants engaged in a multi-decade conspiracy to mislead the public that there was no proof that smoking cigarettes caused cancer and other diseases such as COPD.

Mr. Kerrivan stated, “I’m glad the jury heard my case and understood what these companies did to me and to others was so wrong. Some people have already congratulated me for winning. But with terminal COPD and no ability to live any type of normal life from day to day — it doesn’t feel like winning. I would give up all the money in the world for two good healthy lungs again. I hope other smokers in these cases get their day in court and their stories get told.”

Mr. Kerrivan smoked cigarettes that were marketed as safer — filter cigarettes and then light and ultra-light cigarettes — doing just as the cigarette companies asked their customers to do if they were interested in smoking safer cigarettes. The truth is that light cigarettes were no safer, and the evidence showed that tobacco executives knew that.

“At trial Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds sought to place all the blame on Mr. Kerrivan for becoming addicted to nicotine as a teenager in a time when the defendants widely marketed smoking cigarettes using celebrities and famous athletes and advertised on television shows popular with children and teenagers. Thankfully, the jury rejected this defense and held Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds accountable for their decision to target an entire generation of post-World War II American teenagers with a lifetime addiction to nicotine,” stated Mr. Byrd. “The cigarette industry argues that as Engle class members and their spouses die, their lawsuits die with them. We will continue working night and day to see that these class members get their day in Court.” Mr. Byrd was assisted in the trial by Sarah R. London, also of Lieff Cabraser.

At the trial, Mr. Byrd served as lead counsel and was joined by Sarah London of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office. The case is entitled Kenneth Kerrivan v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, et al., Case No. 3:09-cv-13703. Mr. Byrd is licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Ms. London is licensed to practice law in California.


This press release may be considered advertising in certain jurisdictions. Any testimonial or endorsement does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Every legal matter is different. The outcome of your claim or case depends upon many factors, including the specific facts of your claim or case. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. The jury verdict stated above is not the net amount of the recovery for the plaintiff as a judgment has not been entered and the amount is before attorneys fees and costs, and any third party fees and costs, are deducted.


Kenneth Byrd
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
150 Fourth Avenue, North, Suite 1650
Nashville, TN 37219