PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., May 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers, comments on a recent tobacco ruling in which smokers may rely on the landmark Engle case (Engle, et al. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al.) to prove liability, according to the 11th Circuit Court. The case is Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. et al., case number 13-14590, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit ruling now says that federal law does not bar them from using the landmark Engle tobacco class action's jury findings to establish strict liability and negligence claims, according to a May 18, 2017 report by Law360. (https://www.law360.com/productliability/articles/925791/breaking-smokers-can-rely-on-engle-to-prove-liability-11th-circ-says?nl_pk=5337cdd1-5a93-4736-824c-916785735de8&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=productliability)
The appeals court, sitting en banc (full bench), reversed a prior panel ruling that found that Earl Graham, whose wife died of smoking-related lung cancer and who was part of the original Engle class, would not be able to rely on the jury's findings in Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., which included that smoking leads to certain diseases and that tobacco companies hid the dangers of smoking from consumers, according to Law360.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris International Inc. argued that passing legislation that does not ban cigarettes, Congress established a policy of enabling the sale of tobacco products. In the most recent decision, written by Judge William Pryor, the Eleventh Circuit indicated that there is nothing in the federal laws that "reflects a federal objective to permit the sale or manufacture of cigarettes" and the state of Florida is within its rights to regulate cigarette sales and impose tort liability on tobacco companies, Law360 reported. "R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris would have us presume that Congress established a right to sell cigarettes based on a handful of federal labeling requirements," the court noted. "We decline to do so."
The appeals court denied the tobacco companies' argument using the Engle jury's findings violates their due process rights. The Eleventh Circuit responding that a review of the original Engle proceedings revealed that the jury decided common elements of negligence and strict liability claims against tobacco companies. The court added that the tobacco companies had notice and an opportunity to be heard throughout the extensive trial. "We recognize that the Engle court defined a novel notion of res judicata, but we cannot say that the substance of that doctrine or its application in these trials was so unfair as to violate the constitutional guarantee of due process," according to the appeals court.
The Engle jury returned with a $145 billion verdict against tobacco companies on behalf of a class of some 700,000 Floridians. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that decision, decertified the class, and permitted class members to bring individual lawsuits using the jury's findings.
"The recent majority opinion has followed what we have seen in the class litigation, in all court opinions, and what was decided in Engle," said Keith Gitman, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP.
If you or someone you know experienced illness or death associated with cigarettes, please contact Parker Waichman LLP. Free case evaluations are available by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO. (http://www.yourlawyer.com)
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SOURCE Parker Waichman LLP