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Retrial Underway in Wrongful Death Tobacco Case, Months After $17.5M Verdict Thrown Out on Appeal

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Nov 1, 2019, 9:27:33 PM

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Miami, FL— Retrial against the nation’s two largest tobacco companies over the cancer death of a Florida smoker is underway, months after a state appellate court threw out a $17.5 million verdict in the case. Gloger v. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, 2011-CA-23377. 

Irene Gloger, 47, died of cancer in 1996, a year after she had quit a decades-long smoking history. Her family contends Gloger, who started smoking as a teenager, became addicted to cigarettes and ultimately developed lung cancer because of a conspiracy by R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris to hide smoking’s dangers. 

In a February 2018 trial covered gavel-to-gavel by CVN, jurors awarded Gloger’s husband Kenneth $17.5 million. However, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal threw out that award last March, after finding the trial court failed to properly limit testimony from Kenneth Gloger concerning conversations with doctors about his wife’s cancer. 

The 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.

A key point of contention in the case is whether Gloger suffered from lung cancer caused by smoking. During openings last Friday,  The Ratzan Law Group’s Stuart Weissman told jurors Gloger’s treating physician, Dr. John Ruckdaschel, concluded she suffered from lung cancer based on all the available medical records. “Dr. Ruckdaschel will testify right here from this witness stand and will make it crystal clear,” Weissman said, “that Irene Gloger had lung cancer, and that her lung cancer and death were due to decades of smoking cigarettes.”

However, the defense argues there is insufficient evidence to conclude Gloger’s cancer actually started in her lungs. During openings, King & Spalding’s Cory Hohnbaum, representing Reynolds, noted the absence of any medical records in the first year after her cancer diagnosis. “We also have nothing in any medical record that says Mrs. Gloger had a mass in her lung,” Hohnbaum said. 

Additionally, the defense contends Gloger knew the risks of smoking, but refused to quit in time to avoid any possible impact. During last Friday’s openings, Arnold & Porter’s Keri Arnold, representing Philip Morris, argued Gloger continued to smoke while other family members quit, and that she quit herself only when she decided she was ready. “There’s no reason that Mrs. Gloger couldn’t have made that exact same decision,” Arnold said, “to quit smoking earlier and in time to avoid getting sick.”

Trial is expected to last through next week. 

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com

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Topics: tobacco, Florida, Gloger v. R.J. Reynolds