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Florida Supreme Court Opens Door For Smokers’ Individual Claims

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Despite the national class action settlement entered into with the states some years ago for the reimbursement of costs paid out for smoking related health care, the Tobacco Companies remain liable to the smokers for deceptive practices which mislead smokers and the general public in the failure to disclose material facts concerning the health affects or addictive nature of smoking cigarettes. On July 6, 2006 the Florida Supreme Court decided the case of Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc, et al. This dangerous drug case involved the single largest smoker's class action against all of the various tobacco companies. The class included all Florida citizens injured as a result of smoking tobacco.

On July 7, 1999 the jury rendered a verdict on behalf of the class and against tobacco on all counts. Subsequently, on November 6, 2000, the jury awarded a compensatory recovery of $12.7 million for three class plaintiffs and a total of $145 billion in punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed this judgment in part and allowed certain findings by the jury to stand.

The court agreed that the certification of the class was appropriate for the decision of liability, but it found that all individual plaintiffs would have to bring separate claims to show that tobacco caused their particular injuries. Specifically, the Supreme Court found that it was proper to allow a jury to make findings in the class action that smoking cigarettes causes:


aortic aneurysm
bladder cancer
cerebrovascular disease
cervical cancer
chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease
coronary heart disease
esophageal cancer
kidney cancer
laryngeal cancer
lung cancer (specifically adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma)
complications of pregnancy
oral cavity/tongue cancer
pancreatic cancer
periphereal vascular disease
pharyngeal cancer
stomach cancer


In order to pursue an individual claim, a smoker will only need to establish through the testimony of treating physicians the disease process that developed individual medical causation and reliance on any acts of fraud that may be alleged. The Florida Supreme Court also held that smokers injured by tobacco, a dangerous drug, on or before November 21, 1996, can file such their own action for compensatory and punitive damages within one year of the mandate in this case. If you fall into these categories you should contact a lawyer to secure your rights.