Miami, FL— Jurors this week awarded more than $10.5 million to a former Marine for the role it found Philip Morris played in the throat cancer that took his voice box. Principe v. Philip Morris, 2017-CA-025772.
The Florida State 11th Circuit jury, in Dade County, handed down the award Monday, after finding Philip Morris engaged in fraudulent marketing that led to Edward Principe’s laryngeal cancer.
Principe, 65, began smoking as a teenager, and continued smoking up to three packs a day for decades, and across careers in the Marines and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He claims his cancer was caused by cigarettes Philip Morris designed to addict smokers, while the company undercut evidence of smoking’s health hazards.
Jurors deliberated across more than four days before reaching their verdict, which cleared the tobacco giant on the defective design claim but found it liable for fraud.
The case is somewhat unusual in Florida’s tobacco litigation because it is not one of the state's thousands of so-called Engle progeny lawsuits against the nation’s tobacco companies. Unlike Engle cases, in which underlying product defect claims have already been decided against the tobacco companies, Principe was required to attempt to prove his defect claim independently.
Trial turned on whether tobacco marketing initiatives influenced Principe’s smoking. During closings last week, Kim Vaughan Lerner’s Robert Vaughan, representing Philip Morris, told jurors Principe knew the risks of cigarettes and had received warnings from a range of sources, including on the packs of Marlboros he smoked. “He told you that he knew what the pack warning said. And he understood it. But he told you he just didn’t always read it,” Vaughan said. “How many times do you have to read the same warning?”
But Principe’s attorney, The Alvarez Law Firm’s Michael Alvarez, countered that Philip Morris knew smokers like Principe tended to disregard pack warnings, while decades of tobacco marketing initiatives succeeded in casting doubt on medical evidence concerning smoking’s risks. “He was doing exactly what they wanted him to do. They weren’t blaming him back then,” Alvarez said. “They were encouraging him.”
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
Ed Principe is represented by The Alvarez Law Firm’s Alex Alvarez, Nick Reyes, and Michael Alvarez.
Philip Morris is represented by Kim Vaughan Lerner’s Robert Vaughan and Shook Hardy’s Bruce Tepikian.
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