Before unprecedented court closures halted the docket of Florida’s Engle progeny tobacco cases, the first three months of 2020 saw several high-profile verdicts that have added to the decade-plus history of the litigation. CVN looks at the top defense verdict of the first quarter of 2020, delivered by the attorney that earned last year’s Engle defense title.
Top Engle 2020 Defense Verdict (So Far):
Richter v. R.J. Reynolds
The verdict: For the defense.
Winning attorney: Jason Keehfus, of King & Spalding.
Keehfus, named CVN’s Engle Progeny Defense Attorney of 2019 for going undefeated in two Engle trials last year, continued his winning streak at trial over the 1996 lung cancer death of Edward Richter.
Richter began smoking as a teenager in the 1950s and continued smoking up to two packs a day for more than 40 years. However, Keehfus argued Richter chose to smoke, despite knowing the dangers of cigarettes. “Mr. Richter was a man who lived in a world filled with warnings,” Keehfus said, as he showed a poster board featuring Richter's photo encircled by warnings against smoking that Keehfus said Richter had received. “Mr. Richter was surrounded by direct, clear, and personalized warnings throughout his life by those people that he trusted and those people that were closest to him.”
And Keehfus contended that Richter was never interested in quitting in time to avoid his cancer. Keehfus noted Richter’s wife had asked him for years to quit smoking. “She could tell Mr. Richter all she wanted that smoking was going to harm him,” Keehfus said, “but he was going to keep doing it, because that’s what he liked to do.”
In a trial where plaintiff’s attorneys requested between $7 and $11 million in compensatories, jurors cleared Reynolds of liability after about two hours of deliberations.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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