A U.S. federal appeals court tossed out a $9 million punitive-damages award awarded by a lower court against Philip Morris USA in a case filed by a woman who suffered a smoking-related illness that led to her legs being amputated, reports The Free Press.
Donna Brown filed the lawsuit in 2007 in the federal Middle District of Florida, and a jury sided with her on claims for strict liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal. It awarded Brown nearly $8.29 million in compensatory damages and $9 million in punitive damages.
In its appeal, Philip Morris pointed to a recent Florida Supreme Court opinion that said plaintiffs must show that they relied on misleading information from cigarette makers to prevail on claims for fraudulent concealment and conspiracy to fraudulently conceal.
In its June 30 ruling, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Brown had presented “insufficient evidence” to show that she relied on specific false or misleading statements by the company.
The Atlanta-based court overturned the verdicts on the fraud-related claims but upheld the verdicts against the cigarette maker on strict liability and negligence.
The lawsuit was one of thousands of cases filed against tobacco companies after a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision established critical findings about issues such as the dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. Those lawsuits are known as Engle Progeny cases.