Engle Progeny Review for the Week of November 24

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Nov 26, 2014 4:38:00 PM

 

An $18.6M Total Damage Award Highlights Our Week in Review

Wallace-Allen

Judge Waddell Wallace addresses jurors following their award of more than $15 million in punitive damages to Andy Allen in his suit against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. Click here to view the decision on punitive damages. 


 

Andy Allen v. R.J. Reynolds

Verdict: For the plaintiff.

  • $18.6 million total award, including $3.094 million in compensatories and $15.51 million in punitives.

In the only CVN Engle trial during the holiday-shortened week, Jacksonville jurors found tobacco manufacturers Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. liable for a total of $15.51 million in damages for the 2007 COPD death of Patricia Dawn Allen, a decades-long smoker. 

Andy Allen, the surviving husband of Patricia, who died after smoking the tobacco manufacturers’ cigarettes for more than 35 years, was awarded the punitive damages in his Engle progeny suit. The decision, which included $7,755,416 in punitives against Reynolds and $7,755,415 against Philip Morris,follows a $3.094 million compensatory award on Monday, bringing the total damages in the case to more than $18.6 million.

Jurors deliberated for about 5 hours Wednesday before arriving at a decision on punitives. On Tuesday, both sides focused on the tobacco manufacturers’ behavior and how it should impact the jury’s decision. During closing arguments, Mark Belasic, representing R.J. Reynolds, contended that the jury’s earlier finding that Patricia was 70 percent at fault for her respiratory disease warranted reduced, if any, punitive damages. “This isn’t one of these cases where someone walks through the crosswalk and someone just plows them over. It’s not a case where the person who was injured had nothing to do, was caught unawares, had no control,” Belasic said. “You found that Mrs. Allen was many times more at fault, many times more responsible for her own injury than R.J. Reynolds.” 

However, Keith Mitnick, representing Andy Allen, told jurors that the defendants should be punished for their inappropriate manufacture and marketing of cigarettes, which he said continues today. Mitnick argued that the tobacco manufacturers continue to produce cigarettes with nicotine in order to fuel smokers’ addiction and that they should be financially pressured to change their practices. “Get the nicotine out. Leave the lungs alone. All of these additives and engineering (are intended) to get (cigarettes) as inhalable as possible, to speed the delivery, to increase the likelihood of addiction,” Mitnick said. “They need to be encouraged to get the nicotine out. To give options to children that are truly choice cigarettes, and leave the lungs alone.”

The jury's punitive award was less than the $25 million Mitnick requested during closings, and which he contended was sufficient to punish and deter inappropriate conduct without imposing too harsh a penalty. “I’m taking the chance that you will accept that (the $25 million figure is) not meant to offend or swing for the fence, but they’re trying to do the maximum we can do under the law without going too far.”

Allen is a retrial of a 2011 proceeding in which a $40 million jury verdict, including $34 million in punitives, was reduced to $16.8 million. In 2013, The Florida First District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the case after finding that the trial court erred in granting a directed verdict on the issues of addiction and causation. 


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Engle Trading Card Tuesday Flashback

Posted by Courtroom View Network on Nov 25, 2014 7:28:04 PM

Because we've been asked about our earlier, Series 1 Engle Trading Cards, we’ll periodically revisit the subjects of our first set of cards and provide quick updates on their Engle litigation history. This week's flashback checks in on two attorneys who are revisiting their 2010 face-off in Andy Allen v. R.J. Reynolds with the case's retrial, which began earlier this month. 


 

Card # 9 Keith Mitnick

keith-mitnik-engle-trading-cardsmall

Morgan & Morgan's Keith Mitnick hit a rough patch on CVN Engle trials since we featured him in 2011, going on a 3-case losing streak through last year. However, 2014 has been a strong Engle year for Mitnick, as he gone undefeated in two trips to the courthouse. February's Goveia v. R.J. Reynolds yielded a $5.35 million verdict, while this month's retrial in Allen resulted in a $3.04 million compensatory award with findings on punitives still to come. Notably, juries have found punitive liability in all of his CVN Engle wins. 


 

Card #20 Dennis Murphy

dennis-murphy-engle-trading-card1small

Since the release of his card in 2011, Jones Day's Dennis Murphy has gone 1-4-1 in Engle cases, including his most recent loss in Phase 1 of Allen. Importantly, however, this week's $3.04 million compensatory award in the Allen retrial cut the $6 million compensatory award in the case's first tilt nearly in half, with punitives yet to be determined. 


 

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Topics: Engle Litigation Trading Cards

$3M to Family of Smoker Who Died From COPD

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Nov 24, 2014 12:24:37 PM


Keith Mitnick tells jurors that Patricia Dawn Allen’s addiction to cigarettes was a cause of her fatal chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mitnick represents Andy Allen, who is suing tobacco manufacturers R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, claiming their concealment of smoking’s health hazards led to his wife’s nicotine addiction and death. Jurors awarded Allen more than $3 million in compensatory damages today. Click here if you cannot watch the clip above.


Jacksonville, FL—A jury found R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA liable for $3.094 million in damages for the death of Patricia Dawn Allen, who died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after decades of smoking the tobacco manufacturers' cigarettes.

Allen, who started smoking in 1966, when she was 18, smoked between 1 and 3 packs of cigarettes a day for more than 35 years, before her death in 2009. Her husband, Andy Allen, sued Reynolds and Philip Morris as part of Florida’s Engle progeny tobacco litigation, claiming that the tobacco manufacturers’ concealment of smoking’s dangers led to Patricia’s addiction and her fatal COPD.

The jury’s verdict, which also found Reynolds and Philip Morris liable for potential punitive damages to be determined in a second phase of trial, found Patricia 70% at fault for her respiratory disease, and apportioned 24% and 6% to Reynolds and Philip Morris, respectively. The total award, which could be reduced based on the apportionment of liability, included $2.204 million for Andy Allen’s pain, suffering, and loss of companionship and $890,000 for the pain, suffering, and loss of companionship for Patricia's daughter, Amber.

Throughout trial, both sides disputed whether nicotine addiction led to Patricia's COPD and death, a requirement to recover damages in an Engle progeny case. During closing arguments Friday, Jones Day's Mark Belasic, representing Reynolds, reminded jurors of evidence that Patricia smoked to maintain her weight and ease stress, and never tried to quit smoking until after she was diagnosed with a respiratory disease. “We know that her choice not to quit before 1996 is what led to her disease” Belasic said. “She made a choice not to try to quit during a 30-year period when her own doctor says, if she quits, she doesn't get the disease. And, but for that choice, she doesn't get COPD.”

However, Morgan & Morgan's Keith Mitnick, representing Andy Allen, argued in closings that Patricia's failure to mount a concerted effort to quit smoking prior to her 1992 COPD diagnosis served only to establish the strength of her nicotine addiction. “If addiction doesn't play a part in why someone smokes enough to get sick, what is addiction?” he said. "It (becomes) a word without meaning."

Proceedings are scheduled to resume tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., where the jury will hear evidence on the tobacco manufacturers’ potential punitive liability.


Related Information

Watch live and on-demand coverage of Allen v. R.J. Reynolds.

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Topics: Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation, Mass Torts

Tobacco Manufacturers Hit With $4M Verdict in Engle Progeny Lung Cancer Suit

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Nov 22, 2014 7:53:57 AM

MSasser-Perrotto

Judge Meenu Sasser polls jurors after their $4 million verdict in Perrotto v. R.J. Reynolds. Click here to watch the verdict.


West Palm Beach, FL—Jurors awarded more than $4 million to Deborah Perrotto in her Engle progeny suit against four tobacco manufacturers for the lung cancer and respiratory disease contracted by her husband, Nick Perrotto. Deborah Perrotto v. R.J. Reynolds.

The jury's verdict, delivered about 10 p.m. Friday evening, came after more than three hours of deliberations and found that cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., caused Nick Perrotto's lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The decision, which did not find punitive liability for any of the defendants, apportioned 25% liability to Philip Morris, 20% to Reynolds, 6% to Lorillard, and 49% to Nick Perrotto. Jurors apportioned no liability to Liggett Group LLC, which was named as a defendant only on the suit's conspiracy claim.

The $4,087,338.67 total award included $4 million for pain and suffering, plus compensation for medical expenses.

Deborah Perrotto's suit against the tobacco manufacturers claimed that their concealment of smoking's dangers and production of unsafe cigarettes fueled her husband's nicotine addiction and ultimately led to his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and death. Nick Perrotto, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992, ultimately died in 1996 following separate surgeries for brain cancer and a sigmoid volvulus, or twisted colon. Notably, the jury's decision found that smoking did not cause his death.

Nick Perrotto's cause of death served as a key point of dispute for both sides in the trial. Plaintiff's attorneys claimed that Perrotto's lung cancer started a chain of events that led to fatal complications from his volvulus surgery. In closing arguments Friday, Searcy Denney's T. Hardee Bass told jurors "Without the primary lung cancer there's no metastatic cancer in the brain, no brain surgery, no gastrointestinal complications, no volvulus, no tissue death, no perforation, no leakage, no infection, no sepsis, no septic shock, no death."

However, defense attorneys successfully argued that there was insufficient proof that linked lung cancer to Perrotto's volvulus and its subsequent complications. On Friday, Shook Hardy's Walter Cofer, representing Philip Morris, told jurors "No one can explain how brain surgery can cause a colon to twist, because it just doesn't happen."

The Perrotto award is the second multi-million-dollar verdict in CVN Engle cases this week. On Tuesday, a Miami jury awarded Diane Schleider $21 million in her wrongful death suit against Reynolds. A jury in Jacksonville is expected to resume deliberations Monday in Andy Allen's suit for the COPD death of his wife, Patricia Dawn Allen.


Related Information:

Watch the Perrotto trial on demand.

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Topics: Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation

Engle Progeny Review for the Week of November 17

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Nov 21, 2014 3:34:22 PM


Highlights of the week's cases and a look ahead to next week.

SZabel-Schleider

Judge Sarah Zabel instructs jurors prior to their deliberations in Schleider v. R.J. Reynolds. The jury ultimately awarded Diane Schleider $21 million in her suit against the tobacco manufacturer for the cancer death of her husband, Andrew Schleider. Click here to watch closing arguments.


Diane Schleider v. R.J. Reynolds

Verdict: For the plaintiff.

  • $21 million in compensatory damages.
  • No punitive liability.

Jurors on Tuesday awarded Diane Schleider $21 million in her wrongful death suit against R.J. Reynolds, after finding that Andrew Schleider's addiction to Reynolds-brand cigarettes caused his fatal lung cancer.

The verdict came after more than two days of deliberations, which began late last Friday. The jury, which did not find Reynolds liable for punitive damages, apportioned 70% of fault to the tobacco manufacturer and 30% to Schleider.

The award included $15 million for Diane Schleider's loss of companionship and $6 million for the loss of parental companionship to Andrew Schleider’s daughter, Suzanne LeMehaute.

The verdict brings November's CVN trial record to 2-1 for Engle progeny plaintiffs in suits on the merits, with two potential verdicts (in Allen and Perrotto, below) remaining. The month saw six CVN Engle progeny trials, although one, Webb v. R.J. Reynolds, was a retrial limited to damages. Jurors have awarded a total of $28.35 million in damages so far this month.


Andy Allen v. R.J. Reynolds

Closing arguments took most of today, giving jurors less than four hours to deliberate before breaking for the weekend in Andy Allen's suit against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris for the 2009 death of his wife, Dawn.

During closings Friday, attorneys for both sides sparred over whether Dawn Allen, a smoker for more than 35 years, was addicted to the defendants' cigarettes or chose to smoke to maintain her weight and relieve depression. Jones Day's Mark Belasic, representing Reynolds, reminded jurors of evidence that Dawn Allen was conscious of her weight and suffered from depression. "(Plaintiff's) experts agree that people smoke to reduce stress. There's no question (Dawn Allen) did," Belasic said. "Their experts agree that people smoke for weight control. We know she did. Her own doctors say it."

Morgan & Morgan's Keith Mitnick, representing Andy Allen, contended that the strength of Dawn Allen's nicotine addiction was caused by a wide ranging tobacco industry conspiracy that denied that nicotine was addictive while closely regulating the chemical in their cigarettes to retain smokers. "She's addicted. Really, serious drug addiction," Mitnick said. "Not just some namy-pamby, like, chocolate. But a serious, honest-to-God, powerful drug addiction."

Coming Next Week: The jury is expected to resume deliberations Monday morning at 9 a.m.


Debbie Perrotto v. R.J. Reynolds (VERDICT UPDATED)

Verdict: For the plaintiff.

  • $4,087,338.67 in compensatory damages.
  • No punitive liability.

Closings concluded late Friday afternoon, sending the case to the jury Friday evening in Debbie Perrotto's suit against R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, and the Liggett Group for the cancer death of her husband, Nick Perrotto.

During the trial, Debbie Perrotto's attorneys argued that defendants' aggressive marketing practices and the concealment of smoking's dangers caused Nick Perrotto to begin smoking and led to a nicotine addiction and ultimately, his cancer-related death. Recounting evidence that tobacco companies saw14-24-year-olds as replacement smokers, Searcy Denney's T. Hardee Bass, asked "And how old was Nick Perrotto when he started smoking? The evidence is 13 or 14 years old. And he becamse a customer for... the next 25 years."

However, Womble Carlyle's Kurt Weaver, representing Philip Morris, told jurors Friday that Perrotto began smoking in the 1950s when the habit's potential health hazards were widely publicized. "In the middle of the 'Great Cancer Scare' Nick Perrotto decides to smoke," Weaver said. Detailing a famous Reader's Digest article on the link between smoking and cancer, Weaver asked "What are the chances that he wasn't aware of what (plaintiff's expert on tobacco history) Dr. (Robert) Proctor himself described as 'One of the most impactful popular reports on the hazards of smoking during that 1-2 year period?'"


 

Our weekly review comes from our unequaled gavel-to-gavel coverage of Florida's Engle progeny cases.

Not a subscriber?

Sign up for a seven-day free trial of our expansive tobacco litigation video library.

 

Topics: Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation

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