A few years ago, the tobacco industry won a seemingly huge victory in a lawsuit known as the Engle case. However, this victory against a class of Florida smokers may in fact turn out to be an enormous blow to the cigarette industry.
In 1994, a large class action lawsuit was filed against tobacco companies. The represented class is a group of Florida citizens who suffered from smoking-related illnesses. In 2000, the jury returned a verdict for the smokers, which included $145 billion in punitive damages. The tobacco companies quickly appealed. In 2004, an appellate court overturned the jury’s decision and reversed the award. Afterwards, the case was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court’s decision to reverse the $145 billion award. The court also decertified the class. This means that the class action lawsuit could not be re-filed. Instead, the Florida Supreme Court allowed members of the original suit to file cases individually, allowing potential tens of thousands of lawsuits to be filed.
Not only did the Court allow individuals to file separate suits, the Court also allowed the issues already decided in the class action lawsuit to hold true for the individual lawsuits. This includes the findings that tobacco products are defective, dangerous, addictive, and the cause of 16 major diseases. Also, the tobacco companies are liable for negligence, fraud and conspiracy.
These findings will make it much easier for the individual lawsuits stemming from the original Engle case to succeed. Also, there is a lot less evidence to prove for the individuals. However, these findings may also have far-reaching effects. The image of thousands of cases in Florida may lead to more cases being filed across the country. This in turn could lead to increased success against the tobacco companies.
If you are a smoker and believe that you are part of the original class, then you should contact a Florida class action attorney. He can determine whether you have a case, and he can help you get monetary damages from the tobacco industry.