A Florida appeals court on Feb. 10 overturned a $10.6 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in a lawsuit involving a woman’s death from lung cancer, reports WUSF News.
A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in the Broward County lawsuit for which a jury awarded $6 million in compensatory damages and $4.6 million in punitive damages to the estate of Janice Hamilton.
R.J. Reynolds argued in its appeal that a circuit judge improperly allowed a hearsay statement that centered on a conversation between Hamilton and her son when he was a teen. That hearsay statement was used to prove a “fraudulent concealment” claim against the cigarette maker.
The seven-page ruling said, “In order for plaintiff (Hamilton’s son as representative of the estate) to prevail on his conspiracy to commit fraud by concealment claim, he was required to prove that Mrs. Hamilton detrimentally relied on an act or statement made in furtherance of RJR’s agreement to conceal or omit material information concerning the health effects or addictive nature of cigarettes. Hamilton’s statement that filtered cigarettes were safe based on what she heard from advertising, in turn, was undoubtedly the strongest evidence of reliance in this case.”