In 1994, a class-action lawsuit was brought against Big Tobacco, including R.J. Reynolds, in Florida state court on behalf of all Florida citizens and resident who have suffered or died as a result of medical conditions caused by their addiction to cigarettes. The trial court, realizing the enormity of the task at hand, split the trial into three phases:
- Phase I "consisted of a year-long trial to consider the issues of liability and entitlement to punitive damages for the class as a whole;"
- Phase II was a determination of the liability of the tobacco companies to three
individual class representatives, compensatory damages for those
individuals, and a determination of class-wide punitive damages;
- Phase III would evaluate the individual claims of the remaining class members.