Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
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11th Circuit Upholds $41 Million Individual Verdict Against RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris in Florida Tobacco Lawsuit

A federal appeals court has upheld a trial verdict of $41.1 million won by Lieff Cabraser against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for their decades-long conspiracy to conceal the hazards of smoking and the lethally 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.

The suit was originally filed on behalf of plaintiff Kenneth Kerrivan, a resident of Lake Panasoffkee, Florida, who in 1956 began smoking at the age of 14. 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 anti-smoking patches and was unsuccessful through 2006. Mr. Kerrivan now needs tank oxygen 24 hours a day.

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 about an insufficiency of proof that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and other diseases such as COPD.

“At trial, Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds sought to place the blame entirely 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,” noted Lieff Cabraser partner Kenneth S. Byrd (lead counsel for the plaintiff) after the original trial.

“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.”

At the trial, Lieff Cabraser Nashville partner Kenneth S. Byrd served as lead counsel for the plaintiff and was assisted by Sarah London of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office.

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.