Case Results

$300,000,000

Within hours of closing arguments, a Broward Circuit Court jury returned a verdict of $300 million against Philip Morris USA in favor of Cindy Naugle. Ms. Naugle, who quit smoking in 1993, picked up her first cigarette in 1968 at the age of 20 because she thought they would make her look more mature. She explained that had she known then what Philip Morris and other cigarette manufacturers already knew – that nicotine is a highly addictive drug and that cigarettes could cause serious health problems – she never would have started smoking.

After trying to quit without success for decades, Ms. Naugle, now 61, must travel in a wheelchair with 24-hour oxygen due to her emphysema. Although she accepted responsibility for her decision to start smoking in the first place, Philip Morris refused to admit its role in causing her illness.

Ms. Naugle was finally able to quit smoking in the early 1990s when the nicotine patch became available, but the damage was already done. “Cindy spends every minute of every day as if she were drowning,” said her attorney Robert W. Kelley. According to Attorney Todd Falzone, who also represented Ms. Naugle along with Attorney Todd McPharlin, “The jury saw her condition. We think that they felt it. She needed to rest for five minutes to catch her breath after making the 7 step walk to the witness stand.”

This lawsuit is one of many that have followed the 2000 verdict in the class action lawsuit Engle v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, in which the Florida Supreme Court de-certified the class, allowing individual plaintiffs to file lawsuits against Big Tobacco companies. Ms. Naugle’s verdict is by far the largest to date among these Engle Progeny cases.

According to Mr. Kelley, Americans are fed up with corporate misconduct and fraud. “The cigarette companies managed to hide the truth about their product for a long time, but the truth is out now. And when the jury finally hears the truth about what these companies knew and when they knew it, they almost always side with the addicted smokers, most of whom started smoking as teenagers before there were any warning labels on cigarette packs.” Kelley predicts the industry is in for a long series of losses because “most Americans are fed-up with corporate fraud and misconduct.”

The verdict included $56.6 million for Ms. Naugle’s pain and suffering and for her past and future medical expenses, as well as $244 million in punitive damages to punish the company and discourage future misconduct. The jury attributed 10% fault to Ms. Naugle.

$28,795,000

Attorneys Eric Rosen and Kim Wald of Kelley/Uustal have obtained a verdict of $28.795 million on behalf of a widower whose wife died as a result of COPD after smoking R.J. Reynolds cigarettes for over 40 years. His late wife, who was 79 at the time of her death, had been on a ventilator because of the disease.

Compensatory damages from Phase 1 of the trial included $8.5 million plus an additional $295,000 in past medical expenses. Phase 2 of the trial returned a punitive damage verdict of $20 million – far exceeding the $14 million originally sought by Mr. Rosen.

Read the full article here

$17,400,000

A Florida jury awarded our client $17.4 million in a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA Inc. after her husband died of obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The verdict included $3.5 million in damages for the husband’s pain and suffering, $11.6 million in punitive damages, and $2 million in damages caused to our client for the loss of her husband’s comfort, society, and attention.

According to court documents, our client’s husband was only 40% liable for these damages. After he began smoking penny cigarettes at the age of 13, he switched to Marlboro cigarettes, filtered cigarettes, and eventually Marlboro Lights.

Attorney Todd McPharlin of Kelley/Uustal represented the case, and explained that our client’s husband switched to Marlboro Lights because he believed they were a safer alternative to normal cigarettes.

During the course of the trial, McPharlin demonstrated that Philip Morris USA Inc. concealed information from consumers, and that our client’s husband relied on this information, which led to his illness and eventual death. The jury also determined that, prior to 1982, Philip Morris USA Inc. made misleading statements regarding the addictive nature of its products.

“The jury agreed that Philip Morris was responsible for the suffering endured as a result of his COPD and the lung cancer caused by Philip Morris’ cigarettes” McPharlin said.

Read more about the case here.

$13,000,000

Vivian Wilkinson was a former bartender who passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after smoking cigarettes for more than 40 years. Kelley/Uustal attorney Eric Rosen has been representing Ms. Wilkinson’s children, who claim that her fatal disease resulted from an addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and other cigarette manufacturers. The Plaintiff also claimed that R.J. Reynolds engaged in a decade’s long conspiracy to conceal critical information about the health effects and addictive nature of their products.

After a two and a half week trial starting on April 6, 2016, jurors awarded her two children $1.5 million each. The jury also found that R.J. Reynolds fraud and conspiracy were both a legal cause of Ms. Wilkinson’s death and concluded that punitive damages were warranted against the cigarette manufacturer. On April 22, jurors imposed a $10 million punitive damage verdict on R.J. Reynolds for its role in Vivian Wilkinson’s death, boosting the total award to $13 million.

Read the full article here

$11,650,000

The attorneys of Kelley / Uustal have a long record of success in and out of the courtroom, fighting for justice on behalf of the clients we represent. Many times, these cases have captured the attention of local and national media. Below are media accounts of some of our more noteworthy cases.

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$7,123,085

Fort Lauderdale attorneys won a rare $5.3 million wrongful death verdict for the family of a smoker who picked up her first cigarette in the 1970s — decades after most tobacco plaintiffs in Florida.

More information coming soon.

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$6,061,120.47

An 81-year-old Florida man has been awarded $6,061,120.47 in compensatory damages from cigarette makers Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds for the loss of his wife, Carole, from smoking-related disease. Stanley Martin, represented by Kelley/Uustal attorneys Eric RosenTodd McPharlinRobert Kelley, and Kimberly Wald, lost his wife in 2004 after a battle with coronary heart disease and lung cancer caused by more than five decades of heavy cigarette smoking. She was 64 years old and had smoked two packs of cigarettes a day since she was 12 years old.

The lawsuit alleged that both tobacco companies were guilty of a decades-long conspiracy to hide the health risks and addictiveness of smoking from the public.

Read the full article here

$4,000,000

Fort Lauderdale attorneys won a $2.2 million verdict in an unusually fast-paced tobacco wrongful-death trial.

More information coming soon

$780,000

A Florida jury awarded $1.3 million last week to the widow of a lifelong smoker who died of lung cancer in 2004. Her husband smoked cigarettes for 65 years before being diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2003, his lawyer, Todd McPharlin, a partner at Kelley Uustal in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., told Lawyers USA. He died the next year at age 81.

This case was filed as a solo personal injury case but at one point was joined with the Engle litigation, McPharlin said, after the Florida Supreme Court reinstated the class of plaintiffs. But the case was tried on its own merits as a traditional personal injury suit without including the findings from Engle.

For the majority of his life, our client smoked Chesterfield cigarettes manufactured by the defendant, Liggett Group. A spokesperson for the company had no comment on the case.

During the three-week trial, causation was not the primary issue, McPharlin noted. Instead, the case turned on the issue of addiction.

“The defense did not contest medical causation but argued that it was his choice to smoke and that he chose to do so,” McPharlin said.

Both sides had experts testify on addiction.

“The defense essentially admitted that he was addicted, but the question was whether or not he could quit, and how difficult it would have been for him to quit – really, it was a question of the degree of his addiction that was contested,” McPharlin explained.

From the beginning of the trial, McPharlin said the plaintiff took some responsibility for our client’s choice to smoke, and suggested to the jury that he be apportioned some fault, “in the range of 5 percent.”

Instead, over the course of an eight-hour deliberation period, the jury apportioned 60 percent of the fault to Liggett Group, the maker of Chesterfields, and 40 percent to our client.

McPharlin had asked jurors to award $1.5 million and they came close, awarding $1.3 million – netting the plaintiff $780,000 after apportionment.

The verdict did not include punitive damages.

The victory comes on the heels of the plaintiff’s win in the first of the individual Engle cases to be tried, where plaintiff Elaine Hess was awarded $8 million, including $5 million in punitive damages.

McPharlin’s firm, which is handling about 90 Engle cases, has a few slated for trial later this year.