$9.3M+ Verdict Against RJR in Retrial Over Florida Smoker's Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 12, 2024 11:04:15 AM


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Fort Lauderdale, FL— R.J. Reynolds was hit with a $9.37 million verdict late last month for the role jurors found the company played in the death of a long-time smoker, capping retrial in a case that last saw a jury 10 years ago. Irimi v. R.J. Reynolds, CACE08026337. 

The 17th Circuit Court jury, in Broward County, handed down the award for the 2013 death of Dale Moyer, 83. Moyer, who had smoked for decades, died of complications relating to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer. His daughter Heather Irimi claims Reynolds is responsible for his smoking-related disease and ultimate death by concealing the dangers of smoking and hooking Moyer to cigarettes. 

Jurors apportioned 90 percent of fault to Reynolds and assigned 10 percent of liability to Moyer himself. However, because jurors found against the tobacco company on fraud and conspiracy claims, the post-verdict award will likely not be reduced by that apportionment of fault. 

The verdict comes 10 years after a $3.1 million verdict handed down in the case. In 2018, however, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed an order granting a new trial in the case due to issues with that trial’s voir dire. While that earlier trial involved multiple tobacco defendants, Reynolds was the only defendant in this second appearance before a jury. 


The case is among thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against Reynolds and the nation's other tobacco companies. After a trial court verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on defective design, fraud, and conspiracy claims, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class. It ruled individual, so-called, “Engle progeny” plaintiffs can recover only if they prove the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that caused a smoking-related illness.

The 10-day trial turned in large part on what drove Moyer’s smoking decisions. Reynolds claims that Moyer chose to smoke despite knowing the dangers of cigarettes. And during his closing, Jones Day’s Jason Keehfus, representing Reynolds, reviewed evidence he said showed Moyer understood the risks of smoking for decades, but did not truly want to quit in time to avoid its impact on him.

“He’d known for half a century about the dangers of smoking,” Keehfus said. “The evidence was overwhelming, it was unending, and it was relentless.”

But in his closing, Jonathan Gdanski, of Schlesinger Law Offices, highlighted evidence he said showed Moyer had been a victim of a decades-long tobacco industry-wide conspiracy to conceal the dangers of smoking while furthering Moyer’s addiction to cigarettes. 

“Dale Moyer is the perfect customer: started young, was loyal throughout his life, he stuck to the products that they sold, he switched when they wanted him to switch,” Gdanksi said.“He was so loyal to them… despite the fact that, all that time, he was unwittingly being misled by them.”

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Topics: tobacco, Engle Progeny, Florida, Irimi v. R.J. Reynolds