U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Tobacco Companies Lose Another Appeal

In a line of cases that even the most cynical of tort reformer wouldn't blink an eye at, another tobacco company appeal has been swatted down by the appellate courts.

In one of the thousands of Engle progeny cases, R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris unsuccessfully lobbed a Hail Mary appeal and, not surprisingly, lost. The tobacco giants challenged the multi-million dollar jury award to an individual plaintiff that suffered the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.

Unappealing in Detail

In short, the tobacco company lawyers did their due diligence making any and all plausible arguments to reverse, or reduce, the verdict. The companies challenged: one jury instruction regarding the statute of limitations, the denial of a motion for mistrial as a result of the plaintiff's mid-trial medical emergency, as well as the district court's application of comparative fault. The companies even alleged the lower court coerced the deadlocked jury to reach a verdict on punitive damages.

Not surprisingly, the court did not find for the tobacco company appellants on any issue. In rejecting the claims on appeal, the court reminded the defendants that the Engle matter established res judicata that an Engle class member already has established negligence, strict liability, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy claims by virtue of their membership.

The Mid-Trial Medical Emergency

Perhaps the most interesting claim made by the appellants was that the refusal to grant a mistrial due to the plaintiff's alleged in-court stroke a couple days into the trial unfairly prejudiced the defendants.

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