Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
2018 Berger Tobacco Lawsuit

11th Circuit Reinstates $27 Million Verdict for Injured Smoker Against Phillip Morris in Florida Tobacco Litigation

In 2014, Lieff Cabraser won a trial verdict against Philip Morris on behalf of injured smoker Judith Berger, who started using cigarettes at age 14. The jury awarded compensation in the amount of $6.25 million, then added an additional $20 million in punitive damages against the cigarette maker. Thereafter, the trial judge substantially undercut the claims at the defendants’ urging, reducing the compensatory award to $3.75 million and eliminating the punitive damages award. Philip Morris further appealed the reduced damages award, claiming falsely that plaintiffs’ counsel had characterized the tobacco industry as “pedophiles” to the jury.

In late November 2018, a unanimous panel of the 11th Circuit not only found the jury arguments entirely appropriate, but found in favor of plaintiffs with respect to the disputed application of Florida law and reinstated the original intentional harm and punitive damages findings. The full original judgment is now back in force, a combined award of $27,010.000.14. It appears the last fourteen cents of the verdict were intended as a specific message to Philip Morris relating to the age of Ms. Berger (who was up to a pack a day two years later at the age of 16) when their disinformation and ad enticements first lured her into smoking. Evidence presented at trial showed that 90 percent of daily cigarette smokers start smoking as teenagers and the tobacco industry targets youth in their advertisements precisely so that they can replace older customers who die or manage to quit.

Lieff Cabraser’s Work on Behalf of Injured Smokers and Their Families

Lieff Cabraser represents Florida smokers, and the spouses and families of loved ones who died, in litigation against the tobacco companies for their 50-year conspiracy to conceal the hazards of smoking and the addictive nature of cigarettes. In 2015, a settlement was reached on behalf of more than 400 Florida smoker lawsuits against the major cigarette companies Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and Lorillard Tobacco Company. As a part of the settlement, the companies will collectively pay $100 million to injured smokers or their families. Lieff Cabraser attorneys also 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.