Another Engle Win

Third defense verdict in two weeks for PM USA

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Miami-Dade jury today ruled in favor of Philip Morris USA Inc. in an Engle case ( Frazier v. Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds). The verdict marks the third time in two weeks that Florida juries in an Engle case have found for Philip Morris USA.

"We believe this jury reached the correct result," said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of Richmond, Va.-based Philip Morris USA. "This string of recent verdicts for the defense shows that Philip Morris USA has powerful defenses [image-nocss] in these cases even when trial courts apply unfair procedures that do not require plaintiffs to prove their claims."

"Here, the trial court violated Florida law and due process by allowing the plaintiff to rely on general findings from a previous jury with no connection to the specific circumstances of this case," Garnick added.

The verdict came in the trial of a so-called Engle progeny case following a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision that decertified a class action but allowed former class-action members to file individual lawsuits and rely on general findings from the first class action. Recently, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals severely restricted the ability of plaintiffs in the federal cases to use findings from the prior Engle jury to meet their burden of proof at trial. Neither the plaintiff here nor any of the other plaintiffs in state courts have complied with the requirements set forth by this ruling.

Last week, both a Duval County jury and a Manatee County jury returned verdicts for Philip Morris USA in other Engle cases (Warrick and Willis; click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage).