The National Law Journal has named two verdicts achieved by Lieff Cabraser trial lawyers to its list of the Top Verdicts of 2014. Both trials occurred in federal court in Florida as part of the so-called Engle cases, the Florida class action filed against the cigarette companies in 1994.
In October 2014, a jury returned a verdict of $41.1 million against defendants Philip Morris USA Inc. and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. Plaintiff Kenneth Kerrivan started smoking cigarettes when he was 14 years old. Mr. Kerrivan now faces terminal chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The jury award included $15.8 million in compensatory damages, $15.7 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris, and $9.6 million against RJ Reynolds.
One month earlier, another jury awarded Judith Berger $27,010,000.14 in a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA Inc. Mrs. Berger started smoking when she was 14 years old. Today, Mrs. Berger suffers from COPD. The jury verdict included 20,760,000 dollars and 14 cents in punitive damages.
Lieff Cabraser attorneys tried over 20 cases in Florida federal court against the tobacco industry on behalf of individual smokers or their estates, and with co-counsel obtained over $105 million in judgments for our clients. We also defeated constitutional challenges by the cigarette companies before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to the trial structure used in these cases.
“We are proud of the success of our trial lawyers in enabling our clients have their day in court and holding the tobacco companies accountable for engaging in a 50-year conspiracy to mislead the public on the hazards of smoking and addictive nature of nicotine,” stated Lieff Cabraser attorney Robert Nelson.
In February 2015, Nelson announced that a settlement of more than 400 Florida smoker lawsuits against Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard Tobacco Company had been reached. This settlement was in addition to the $105 million in judgments following jury trials.
Kenneth Byrd, a partner in Lieff Cabraser’s Nashville office, served as lead trial counsel for both Mr. Kerrivan and Mrs. Berger. Lieff Cabraser’s trial attorneys Richard Heimann, Sarah London, and John Spragens also achieved jury verdicts for the firm’s clients in the Florida tobacco litigation.