The plaintiffs appear to be sharpening their game in Florida's Engle-progeny tobacco litigation cases.
Although the Tobacco defense attorneys scored two early wins last year (Gelep and Kalyvas), it has been 11 months since the last defense verdict.
And since then, the defense has been pounded with two $30M verdicts (Martin and Cohen), and a $300M verdict (Naugle), which was subsequently reduced to $39M, as well as several smaller verdicts: $1.2M (Brown), $5.3M (Barbanell), $7.8M (Campbell), $9.2M (Gray), $17.5M (Hall). Punitive damages have been awarded in six cases (Hess, Martin, Naugle, Gray, Hall, Cohen).
Tobacco's eight-trial losing streak comes on the eve of a double-header scheduled to begin next week in Fort Lauderdale: Putney v. R.J. Reynolds, before Hon. Judge John Murphy, and Grossman v. R.J. Reynolds, before Hon. Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld. CVN will be covering both trials.
Despite the recent trial losses, the Tobacco companies may well see themselves as winning the war, even as they lose some battles. For example, negative trial outcomes could mask a large number of favorable settlements in other cases. Further, the Tobacco companies have succeeded in convincing juries that the smoker should share the fault in most or all of the cases, thus reducing the amount of the damage award that must actually be paid.
Moreover, even if the Tobacco companies lost all 8,000 Engle cases and were liable for $2M each, the total liability ($16B) would nonetheless be far below the $145B in punitive damages awarded in the original Engle case.
However, $2M was only the average verdict during the first four months of the Engle cases (FEB-09 to APR-09). Since then, the average verdict has been closer to $20M.