PM USA, RJR Prevail in First Federal Engle Trial
Represents 12th win in last 17 trials
RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal jury in Duval County, Fla., late last week decided in favor of Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the first federal Engle case to go to trial. After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury determined that smoking was not the medical cause of the injury. This is the 12th win for the company in the last 17 Engle trials, PM USA said.
"This verdict demonstrates that Philip Morris USA is aggressive in defending itself and will assert all available defenses," said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of PM USA. "Despite today's decision and other recent wins, we believe that state and federal courts have put in place a trial system that fundamentally violates our due process because plaintiffs don't have to prove their claims."
PM USA has won or mistried approximately two-thirds of its Engle cases to go to trial since the beginning of 2011, the company said.
This latest verdict came in a 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. Prior to this trial, all Engle trials have occurred in state courts.
So far, smokers have won 40 of the 58 Engle verdicts in state court trials, Edward L. Sweda Jr., senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project, which tracks the suits, told Bloomberg. Trials in federal court have been delayed by pretrial appeals.
As of February 13, Philip Morris faced 3,306 Engle cases in Florida state courts and 3,238 in federal courts, according to an Altria Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) filing cited by the news agency. RJR is a defendant in 6,561 cases in state and federal courts combined, said the report, citing an SEC filing dated February 15.
The case is Gollihue v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., case number 3:09-cv-10530-RBD-JBT. The trial was held in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division.
In a separate case last week, a jury in Oregon state court issued a $25 million verdict against PM USA in a lawsuit by the family of a woman who smoked low-tar cigarettes and died of lung cancer in 1999, Chuck Tauman, the family's attorney, told the news agency
Philip Morris, based in Richmond, Va., is the biggest U.S. cigarette maker. R.J. Reynolds, a unit of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), is No. 2.