3rd District Court of Appeals Affirms Multi-Million Dollar Judgment
The 3rd District Court of Appeals for Florida recently handed down a case that confirms a multi-million dollar award. The case is styled asPhilip Morris USA, Inc., v. Cuculino, No. 3D14-1339 (3rd Dis. Ct. App. 2015), and involves a claim against a tobacco company for, among other things, negligence.
This case is one of a number of cases that have been filed against tobacco companies since 2006. In 2006 the Florida Supreme Court made a critical rule that allowed those injured by smoking tobacco the ability to sue the companies. These are known asEngle progeny cases.
Facts of the Case and Trial
This case was brought by a lifelong smoker who suffered from coronary heart disease when he was 49. He made the claim that the cigarette maker whose cigarettes he smoked was negligent in causing him to have his heart problem and other health problems. He based his claims on negligence, conspiracy, fraudulent concealment, and strict liability.
At trial the cigarette company moved to have the case dismissed, but the court denied this motion. In fact, after hearing the facts of the case at trial, the jury awarded the man a verdict of $12.5 million in damages. But he was not awarded all the money because the jury apportioned the fault between the man and the company. The jury held the company 40 percent responsible for the damages done to him, and held him 60 percent responsible for choosing to smoke. That means that he was entitled to 40 percent of the award, or $5 million.
Ruling of the District Court
After the trial was over, the tobacco companyappealed the verdict saying that the man’s attorney made inappropriate comments during closing arguments. While in hindsight the comments made were wrong, the court ruled that they did not materially affect the outcome of the trial. Not only that, but at time when the company’s attorneys objected, the court sustained the objection and the jury got the chance to see that the comments were wrong.
The ruling was based on whether the jury was inflamed or highly prejudiced because of what the attorney said. In essence, the attorney asked the jury to imagine how much they would charge per hour to have the health problems and addiction that his client suffered from. Then he asked the jury to put a number to that, and that would be what is fair to charge the tobacco company.
The court ultimately decided that the comments did not inflame or highly prejudiced the jury. And the court also ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the company’s motion for a new trial. Barring a further appeal, the judgment will stand and the verdict against the company should be collected.
Panama City Area Accident and Injury Attorney
This case is an example of what happens when a company or an individual acts negligently towards another and causes them damages. Florida law provides a remedy for victims of accidents and injuries, and it is that area of the law that our practice is dedicated to atThe Pittman Firm. If you have been injured in an accident in the Panama City area,contact us. No matter what you situation is, we want to hear about your case so we can provide you with your legal options.