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David Mittleman
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Florida Jury Lights Up Big Tobacco for $300 Million

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In a clear message to the cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris, a Florida jury has ordered the company to pay $300 million in damages to ex-smoker, Cindy Naugle, who is wheelchair-bound due to her emphysema. The verdict represents the largest in the series of Engle-Progeny cases tried to date.

Naugle will receive $56.6 million in past and future medical expenses as well as $244 million in punitive damages. Nevertheless, Philip Morris has already stated that it will seek further review of the verdict, arguing that there were “numerous erroneous rulings by the trial judge” and that the punitive damages award was “grossly excessive”.

Naugle’s is but one of the 8,000 individual cases brought against big tobacco since a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that tossed out a massive class-action lawsuit that covered some 700,000 smokers. Despite the dismissal of the class action suit, the high court allowed members of the class to file individual complaints. Also, the high court allowed the initial jury’s finding that big tobacco knowingly sold dangerous products and hid risks from people to be presented in Ms. Naugle’s trial. The initial suit that was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, Engel v. Progeny, resulted in damages of $145 billion.