Howard Engle v Philip Morris et al

Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit, Dade County FL, General Jurisdiction Division (Case No. 94-08273 CA)
The Honorable Robert Paul Kaye presiding
ENGLE

Filed 1994

Verdict for the Plaintiff
The Engle case was the longest jury trial in US legal history (18 months) and resulted in a $145 billion dollar jury verdict against the tobacco industry.

Plaintiff attorneys: Stanley M. and Susan Rosenblatt

Timeline

  • 1994 – May 5: Case filed
  • 1994 – October 31: Class certified
  • 1996 – Class reduced to Floridians only
  • 1998 – February 4: Court issues Trial Plan, dividing proceedings into 3 phases.
  • 1998 – October 19: Opening statements
  • 1999 – July 7: Phase I verdict – $145B class-wide punitive damage award
  • 1999 – November 1: Phase II(a) starts: trial of class members Amodeo, Della Vecchio, and Mary Farnan
  • 2000 – April 7: Phase II(a) verdict
  • 2000 – May 22: Phase II(b) starts
  • 2000 – November 6: Trial court upholds jury award
  • Third District Court reverses judgment and orders class decertified.
  • 2006 – Florida Supreme Court decertifies class but allows individual suits to proceed.
  • 2008 – Deadline to file individual claims
  • 2009 – Progeny trials begin.

Narrative

In 1994, the husband and wife legal team of Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt filed a class action lawsuit in Dade County, Florida, on behalf of “all Florida citizens and residents, and their survivors, who have suffered, presently suffer or have died from diseases and medical conditions caused by their addiction to cigarettes that contain nicotine” — a class believed to include approximately 700,000 injured Florida smokers.

Dr. Howard Engle (above), represented the class. He was a pediatrician and lifelong smoker who claimed that since college he smoked multiple packs of cigarettes each day and was unable to quit despite multiple attempts. He continued to smoke, even after contracting emphysema, which finally killed him.

The complaint alleged causes of action for strict liability, fraud and misrepresentation, conspiracy to commit fraud and misrepresentation, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and fitness, negligence, breach of express warranty, intentional infliction of mental distress, and equitable relief.

The trial commenced in October 1998 and was organized into three phases.

  • Phase I consisted of a trial on common issues of liability and causation for all class members. It included a preliminary determination of which class members would ultimately be entitled to punitive damages.
  • Phase II was a trial on causation and compensatory damages (where causation was found). The jury was also asked to determine the amount of class-wide punitive damages.
  • Phase III had separate juries use the same process to determine issues unique to individual class members.

In 1999, the jury found the cigarette companies liable and awarded punitive damages of $145 billion to the class. In 2000 the individual claims of three plaintiffs were tried and each was awarded millions of dollars in compensatory damages for their injuries.

In 2006 the Florida Supreme court decertified the Engle class, although it preserved the affirmative findings of the jury on disease causation and nicotine addiction among other rulings. The former class members were given until 2008 to file their individual law suits against the cigarette companies. See Engle Progeny.

Select Findings From The Engle Case

  • Nicotine in cigarettes is addictive.
  • 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, adenocarinoma, large cell carcinoma, small cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma), complications of pregnancy, oral cavity/tongue cancer, pancreatic cancer, peripheral vascular disease, pharyngeal cancer, and stomach cancer
  • The defendants agreed to conceal or omit information regarding the health effects of cigarettes or their addictive nature with the intention that smokers and the public would rely on this information to their detriment.
  • The defendants sold or supplied cigarettes that did not conform to representations of fact made by said defendants.

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