Florida Supreme Court Asked to Revisit Engle

    Photo: Felix Mizioznikov

    The Florida Supreme Court will hear a case on June 2 that could make it harder to successfully sue cigarette makers, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

    While the case focuses on an issue involving allegations that the tobacco industry conspired to conceal information about smoking, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA want to use the case to convince justices to reconsider the underlying 2006 decision that spurred roughly 8,000 “Engle progeny” cases, many of which are still tied up in court.

    In 2019, a Florida appeals court overturned a $6.4 million award to the estate of John C. Price, who started smoking at age 12 and died at age 74 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The appeals court objected to the way in which the jury had been instructed to weigh the evidence and ordered a new trial.

    The ruling centered on a claim of conspiracy to conceal information about the dangers of smoking. The appeals court agree with R.J. Reynolds that the estate needed to show that Price relied to his “detriment” on a statement that concealed or omitted information.

    While the outcome of the conspiracy issue could affect numerous Engle progeny cases, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris also have asked the Supreme Court to go beyond the appeals court ruling and revisit the 2006 decision. They have been backed by the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a group that lobbies the legislature and becomes involved in court cases to try to limit lawsuits.

    The tobacco companies’ arguments come after a significant change at the Supreme Court since January 2019, when three liberal-leaning justices retired and were replaced by justices appointed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.