Gary Paige delivers closings that set up the biggest Engle tobacco verdict of the first quarter of 2020. See below for video featuring James Gustafson.
Court closures have paused Florida’s decade-plus-long, Engle-progeny tobacco litigation. However, before courts shut down, the first three months of 2020 had already produced a slate of headline-grabbing verdicts in the cases, spun from a massive class action suit against the nation’s tobacco companies. CVN looks at the top verdicts we’ve covered so far this year.
Top Engle 2020 Plaintiff’s Verdict (So Far):
Duignan v. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds
The verdict: $26.75 million.
Winning attorneys: James Gustafson, of Searcy Denney; Gary Paige and Cassandra Castellano-Lombard, of Gordon & Partners.
The attorneys in February's Duignan case began the year with a blockbuster verdict against Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds for the cancer death of 42-year-old Douglas Duignan.
The case returned to court this year after a $12 million award handed down in 2015 was thrown out on appeal.
Following a $2.75 million compensatory award, the Duignan family’s attorneys argued that tobacco industry regulation, limitation on advertising and payments as part of a multi-state settlement, didn’t mitigate against imposing a large punitive verdict. “Nothing that the defendants brought you… mitigated, or made less severe, what they did to Douglas Duignan,” Gustafson said in closings of the punitive phase. “If they don’t get punished for what they did, what does that do to deter others from doing the same thing?”
Paige, in punitive-phase closing rebuttal agreed, countering that defense suggestions of $100,000 and $60,000 in punitive awards were inappropriate. “It’s not punishment if they ask for it. “If somebody comes to you and says ‘This is what’s punishment to me, punish me this amount,” you know that’s not punishment to them.”
Jurors responded by handing down $12 million punitive verdicts against each company, bringing the total award to $26.75 million and more than doubling the first trial’s verdict.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.