Philip Morris Wins Round in Florida Tobacco Battle

MIAMI, Fla. -- Tobacco giant Philip Morris USA has won another victory as it defends itself against lawsuits filed by former smokers, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

Last Friday, a Miami-Dade County jury ruled in favor of the company in the litigation that grew from the decertification of the so-called Engle class action lawsuit. The Florida Supreme Court in 2006 decertified the Engle class action lawsuit against Big Tobacco, which grouped together thousands of cases around the state.

In that ruling, the court said the factual findings made by the jury in the Engle class action could be used in future cases heard in Florida, according to the report. Essentially, jurors would be told, as fact, that tobacco companies sold cigarettes that were defective and dangerous, and that they hid the dangers associated with smoking, and plaintiffs would not have to prove those claims.

Recently, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restricted the ability of plaintiffs in the federal cases to use findings from the prior Engle jury to meet their burden of proof at trial. Neither the plaintiffs here nor any of the other plaintiffs in state courts have complied with the requirements set forth by this ruling, reported the South Florida Business Journal.

"We believe this jury reached the correct result," said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior VP and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of Philip Morris USA. "This string of recent verdicts for the defense shows that Philip Morris USA has powerful defenses in these cases, even when trial courts apply unfair procedures that do not require plaintiffs to prove their claims." Last week, jurors in Duval and Manatee counties also ruled in favor of Philip Morris. The suits ask that Phillip Morris compensate the plaintiffs for illnesses they got as a result of smoking, according to the report.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, since 2009, plaintiffs have won 19 out of 25 verdicts against three tobacco companies.

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