Engle Plaintiffs Score Another Micro-Win

Posted by msch on Feb 15, 2011 6:54:00 PM

Kenneth Reilly Attorney Shook Hardy BaconHatziyannakis v. Philip Morris (Fort Lauderdale, FL). 

After Jones Day's Stephen Kaczynski shut down the plaintiff last week in Kirkland v. RJR, Shook Hardy Bacon's Ken Reilly did even better today in Hatziyannakis v. Philip Morris.

In both cases, the plaintiffs nominally won; however, the damage awards were so slight as to represent clear victories for the defense, especially compared to the multimillion dollar awards that were commonplace a year ago, or last November's $80M award in Bronson, Florida (Levy County).

The Hatziyannakis case involved a greek immigrant who liked Marlboros and "smoked constantly" for approximately 27 years. When he died of lung cancer, Mr. Hatziyannakis left behind a wife and two sons.

According to her attorney, Ms. Hatziyannakis was married to the love of her life, and remained unmarried 16 years after Mr. Hatziyannakis' death. "She has a picture of her husband at her bedside that she speaks to and prays to each night," said her attorney, Crane Johnstone. "She continues to visit his grave. She has told you that he was her life. He is the father of her sons, and she never considered remarrying. She loves him dearly to this day, and Philip Morris is responsible to some significant degree for that man's gruesome death."

Mr. Johnstone suggested a total award of $25M in general damages for the plaintiff and her son's loss, as well as $114,609 in economic damages to Mr. Hatziyannakis's estate. Mr. Johnstone also suggested that Phillip Morris should be considered 75% at fault.

The all-women jury found in favor of the plaintiff by concluding that Mr. Hatziyannakis' addiction to Philip Morris' defective product was the legal cause of his death. However, jury found that Philip Morris was only 32% at fault, and awarded general damages of just $155K, plus the $114,609 in economic damages.  No punitive damages were awarded. The jury's award of just one-half of one percent of the requested general damages will be further reduced by 68% due to the plaintiff's own fault, leaving a new record low recovery by a prevailing Engle plaintiff, beating last week's old record.

Shook Hardy Bacon's Kenneth Reilly is perhaps the most successful of the Engle defense attorneys. He has kept Philip Morris' damages at or near zero in four consecutive trials webcast by CVN: Kalyvas, Warrick, Espinosa, and Hatziyannakis. We expect to see Mr. Reilly again next month in Oliva v. R.J. Reynolds.

CVN webcast the Hatziyannakis Engle trial live from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Topics: Toxic Torts, Products Liability, Hatziyannakis v. RJR, Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation