Choose a Topic

View Our Case Results
Kelley/Uustal Practice Areas

Everett A. Belanger v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 3D12-165 (3rd DCA).

In Belanger, the plaintiff filed a post-Englelawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the defense finding that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the four year statute of limitations. The trial court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim accrued before the limitations bar date of May 5, 1990, as the plaintiff had a “clear awareness . . . that cigarettes were killing him” as of August 29, 1981. The Third DCA noted that the evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, indicated that the plaintiff did not know, as of May 5, 1990, that he was suffering a medical condition that was caused by cigarette smoking. The Third DCA also, noted, however, that the question remains whether the trial court could conclude, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff reasonably should have known prior to May 5, 1990, that he was suffering from a medical condition or disease which was caused by cigarette smoking. The trial court found that the plaintiff realized cigarettes were killing him when he quit cold turkey in 1981. The Belanger court noted that “in cases involving latent or creeping diseases, the cause of action accrues when the accumulated effects of the deleterious substance manifests themselves to the claimant in a way which supplies some evidence of a causal relationship to the manufactured product.” The court further noted that the question of when a statute of limitations begins to run in these types of cases is generally treated as a fact question to be resolved by the jury. The Third DCA framed the relevant question not as whether the plaintiff had a particular disease caused by smoking prior to May 1990, but instead whether the plaintiff knew or should have known prior to May of 1990 that he had COPD which was caused by his cigarette smoking. The Third DCA concluded that this question was one to be resolved by the jury, as the question involved determinations which necessarily involve a weighing of the evidence and an assessment of witness credibility. The court additionally found that despite the plaintiff’s awareness prior to May of 1990 that smoking was killing him, an issue of fact remained, given that awareness of an unspecified respiratory-related injury would not cause the limitations period to run. Accordingly, the court concluded that what the plaintiff knew or should have known as of May 5, 1990 is an issue of fact that must be determined by a jury. Therefore, the summary judgment was reversed.

Recognized as One of the Nation's Best Law Firms

Don't just take our word for it. See it for yourself.

Client Reviews & Testimonials
  • AV Peer Review Rated
  • Florida Super Lawyers
  • South Florida Top Rated Lawyers
  • Best Law Firms
  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • The National Trial Lawyers - Top 100 Trial Lawyers
  • South Florida Business Journal - 2017  Best Places to Work
  • Sun Sentinel - 2017 Top Work Places
© 2014 All Rights Reserved The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.