Florida Jury Awards $16M in Trial Against Philip Morris Over Marlboro Smoker's Cancer Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 14, 2024 12:12:53 PM


Stock image. Click here to watch the trial. 

Miami, FL— Jurors this week handed down a $16 million total verdict against Philip Morris for the role they found the company played in the lung cancer death of a Florida smoker. Garcia v. Philip Morris, et al., 2017-CA-005523. 

The award includes $6 million in compensatory damages handed down Monday and another $10 million in punitives awarded Wednesday for the 1998 death of Manuel Garcia, 56. Garcia’s family claims Philip Morris, maker of the Marlboro-brand cigarettes Garcia smoked for 20 years, is responsible for his fatal lung cancer by working to addict him to dangerous, addictive cigarettes and concealing those dangers for decades. 

The case is one of 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 only recover if they prove the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to cigarettes that caused a smoking-related illness “manifesting” between May 5, 1990 and November 21, 1996. 

The jury, in Florida's 11th Circuit state court, found in favor of Garcia's family on the Engle class membership, fraud, and conspiracy claims. 

Garcia was officially diagnosed with lung cancer in June 1997, according to available medical records, placing the question of whether the disease “manifested” during the class membership window, meaning whether Garcia showed symptoms of the disease, as a key issue at trial. 

During closings in the trial’s first phase, on class membership, last Friday, Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Lindsey Heinz told jurors that there was not enough evidence to prove Garcia had symptoms of his lung cancer before the 1996 Engle cutoff date.

Heinz walked jurors through a timeline of Garcia’s cancer symptoms and diagnosis, and noted that medical records did not detail Garcia complaining of cancer symptoms until May 1997, when he visited the ER complaining of facial swelling and being short of breath. Meanwhile, Heinz said, the only evidence Garcia had symptoms of the disease before the cutoff date came from his wife and her uncorroborated testimony that he had developed a worsening cough as far back as February 1996. 

“Mrs. Garcia is the only source for this evidence. You didn’t hear it from anyone else. It’s not supported by the records,” Heinz said. “And she is someone who stands to financially gain from [the] case.”

But the Garcia family’s attorney, Freidin Brown’s Philip Freidin, reminded jurors of evidence, including expert testimony, that he said showed Garcia’s cancer would have been present in his body before the November 1996 cutoff date, based on the size of the tumor at the time of its official diagnosis.

Freidin told jurors these conclusions supported Garcia’s wife’s testimony that he had developed a cough in early 1996, and that such a cough would have been a tell-tale symptom of his cancer. 

“Both [of plaintiff’s experts on the issue] said the same thing: the location of the tumor, the pathology of the tumor, the histology of the tumor… meaning it is typically slow-growing, and it grows at a rate that it would be about a year to two years old [at the time of diagnosis], fit perfectly,” Freidin said. 

Email Arlin Crisco at

Related information

Watch the trial. 

Not a subscriber? 

Learn how you can access an unrivaled trial video library. 

Topics: Garcia v. Philip Morris, et al.