Miami, FL— R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris were hit with a $42.5 million total verdict in a retrial over the 1996 cancer death of a Florida smoker. Gloger v. R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, 2011-CA-23377.
The award includes $15 million in compensatories awarded Friday, as well as an $11 million punitive award imposed against Philip Morris and $16.5 million in punitives imposed against Reynolds Wednesday for the responsibility jurors found the companies bore for Irene Gloger’s lung cancer.
Gloger, who had smoked for decades, died at 47, about a year after she quit smoking. Her family contends a tobacco industry-wide conspiracy to hide the dangers of smoking throughout much of the 20th century hooked Gloger to cigarettes and ultimately led to her fatal cancer.
The verdict more than doubles the $17.5 million jurors awarded in a 2018, CVN-covered trial of the case. That verdict was thrown out in March by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, which found the trial court had not not properly limited Kenneth Gloger’s testimony concerning conversations he had with his wife’s doctors.
The Gloger case is among thousands that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action lawsuit against Philip Morris and other tobacco companies. The state's supreme court ultimately decertified the class, but ruled that so-called Engle progeny cases may be tried individually. Plaintiffs are entitled to the benefit of the jury's findings in the original verdict, including the determination that tobacco companies placed a dangerous, addictive product on the market and conspired to hide the dangers of smoking.
However, in order to be entitled to those findings, plaintiffs must prove the smokers at the heart of their cases suffered from nicotine addiction that caused a smoking-related illness.
The origin of Gloger’s cancer, as well as what, if any responsibility she bore for her smoking, served as key battle lines in the 12-day trial.
During Friday’s closings in the trial’s first phase, on Engle class membership, King & Spalding’s Cory Hohnbaum, representing Reynolds, challenged the claim that Gloger had smoking-related lung cancer, and argued that a mass was never found in Gloger’s lung. He also contended doctors could not agree on the cell-type of Gloger’s cancer.
“There is confusion, massive confusion among the pathologists about what this was,” Hohnbaum said, noting Gloger saw several pathologists during her treatment. “You don’t need to go talk to multiple pathologists if the pathology is clear. It was never clear.”
Arnold & Porter’s Keri Arnold, representing Philip Morris, added that, regardless of the cancer’s origin, Gloger knew the dangers of cigarettes, yet chose to continue smoking. Arnold noted that Gloger had been smoking for years by the time she began smoking Philip Morris brand cigarettes. “She was an adult, she was married, she had a family, she was a medical professional. She had all the maturity and information she needed to make her own decisions about her own smoking and her own health,” Arnold said.
But the Gloger family’s attorney, The Ratzan Law Group’s Stuart Ratzan, argued Gloger was heavily addicted to cigarettes and unable to stop in time to avoid her cancer. Ratzan walked jurors through Gloger’s smoking history, which included numerous failed quit attempts. “There’s no reason — no reason at all — for a person to coat their lungs every 30 or 40 minutes, a pack-and-a-half a day for 30 years, if it’s not for nicotine,” Ratzan said. “It’s the only reason.”
And Ratzan argued medical records and pathology reports showed Gloger’s treating physicians concluded she had lung cancer. He noted one pathology report, on fluid taken from around Gloger’s lungs, found she had non-small cell carcinoma. “It means lung cancer,” Ratzan said. “And I defy anybody to determine otherwise.”
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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