A trio of major tobacco companies including Philip Morris USA Inc. has agreed to pay $100 million to settle more than 400 cases pending in Florida federal court over smoking-related injuries. Philip Morris was joined by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. in agreeing to the settlement, which ends claims brought by smokers and their families as part of the so-called Engle-progeny cases dating back to 1994. The settlement resolves only those cases pending in federal court and not the hundreds still working their way through the state court system.
Under the terms of the agreement, R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris will each pay $42.5 million and Lorillard will put in $15 million. R.J. Reynolds says it will continue to vigorously defend against the cases pending in state court. The settlement includes federal cases that have not gone to verdict, that are not on appeal, that have not previously settled and that have not been dismissed. The settlement is still subject to the approval of all of the individual Plaintiffs in the cases covered by the agreement. In the meantime, the affected cases have been stayed pending approval of the settlement.
The cases stem from the landmark Engle v. Liggett Group Inc. class action against tobacco companies that was decertified in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court. Though the court decertified the class and overturned a $145 billion verdict, the court allowed up to 700,000 people who could have won judgments to rely on the jury’s findings to file suits of their own. These findings include conclusions that smoking causes certain diseases and that tobacco companies hid smoking’s dangers. The individual suits have since yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
In October 2013, Liggett Group LLC reached a $110 million settlement ending nearly all of the Engle progeny cases against the company. Under the terms of the settlement, Liggett parent company Vector Group Ltd. Agreed to pay a lump sum of about $61 million and will pay an additional $49 million over the next 15 years. That settlement resolves more than 4,900 pending personal-injury and wrongful-death claims. The Plaintiffs are represented by the firms of Lieff Cabraser and Motley Rice.
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