Florida Court Reaffirms Allowing Sick Smokers, Survivors to Sue Tobacco Companies
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday reaffirmed its decision allowing sick smokers or their survivors to sue tobacco companies for cigarette-related illness or death.
The court held up a $2.5 million jury verdict in the death of smoker Charlotte Douglas, by a vote of six to one, according to the Associated Press. The majority reaffirmed the court’s “Engle” decision that stated tobacco companies knowingly sold dangerous products, and hid the dangers of cigarette smoking.
In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that factual findings in the Engle case, a 1994 class-action lawsuit named after one of the plaintiffs, would apply to all similar cases filed afterwards, so long as they were filed before a 2008 deadline.
Under the Engle decision, individual smokers can file their own lawsuits, and do not have to prove anything about tobacco companies’ actions. They do have to demonstrate they, or their deceased relatives, were addicted to smoking, were unable to quit and that cigarettes caused illness or death, the AP notes.
Before Engle, tobacco companies generally won lawsuits because it was too difficult to prove cigarettes caused a particular illness, or juries decided smokers should be responsible for their decision to use cigarettes.
Since the Engle decision was made, Florida has become a popular site for people to sue tobacco companies for damages. The state has the most pending smoking-related lawsuits in the country.