April 27, 2015

Federal judge vacates smoker's $20 million punitive damages award

A federal judge in Florida has issued an order vacating a $20 million punitive damages award against Philip Morris.

In one of the many Engle-progeny cases in Florida (see links below for more stories on this ongoing saga), the plaintiff in this case sued on theories of negligence, strict liability, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy.  A jury awarded $6.25 million in compensatory damages, plus $20 million in punitive damages based on the fraud and conspiracy claims.

Judge James G. Carr, a senior district judge from Ohio sitting by designation in the Middle District of Florida, ruled that Philip Morris is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the fraud and conspiracy claims because the plaintiff failed to prove that she actually relied on any misrepresentations when she decided to smoke, or when she decided to switch to "light" or filtered cigarettes.  Because the fraud and conspiracy claims were the sole basis for punitive damages, Judge Carr ordered judgment for Philip Morris on that issue.

If I'm reading the order correctly, there's still a chance the judge may order a new trial on the plaintiffs' negligence and strict liability claims, based on the 11th Circuit's decision in a case called Graham v. R.J. Reynolds.  I won't get into that here, because Graham raises preemption issues that are beyond the scope of this blog.

Related posts:


Another large verdict in Florida smoker litigation

Florida jury awards $14 million in punitive damages to smoker's family

 Florida jury awards smoker's family $22.5M in punitive damages

Florida appellate court reverses $79 million judgment in tobacco case
 
Florida appellate court reverses $40 million punitive damages award in tobacco case

Philip Morris wins sixth straight trial in Florida smoker litigation

Florida jury awards relatively modest punitive damages in smoker lawsuit

Another punitive damages award in Florida tobacco litigation

Florida jury awards $20 million in punitive damages to smoker's widow

Smoker's widow wins $12.5 million in punitive damages

Florida trial judge cuts $244 million punitive damages award

Florida jury awards $25 million in punitive damages to smoker's widow

"Smokers, tobacco, both winners in early Engle cases"

Jury rules for plaintiff in first phase of retrial after reversal of $145 billion punitive damages award

After reversal of $145 billion class action punitive damages award, Florida smokers seek punitive damages in individual suits