First it was the Engle case. You may remember that this is the case in which the Florida Supreme Court vacated a punitive damage verdict against Big Tobacco in the amount of $145 billion. The Supreme Court, however, also ruled that thousands of Florida smoking victims could file individual lawsuits against Big Tobacco and made some significantly damaging findings. The Florida Supreme Court found as a matter of fact and probably as a matter of law that smoking cigarettes causes:
- Lung cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Coronary artery disease
- Bladder cancer
- 12 other known disease
In addition, the Court also found that Big Tobacco “agreed to conceal or omit information regarding the health effects of cigarettes or their addictive nature. The best of all, though, is that Big Tobacco “sold or supplied cigarettes that were defective.
Big Tobacco now faces thousands of lawsuits filed at or near the same time by victims of Big Tobacco’s cigarettes. The scorched earth defense they are so fond of works when defending 1 or maybe even 100 lawsuits at any given time, but will Big Tobacco be capable of outspending plaintiffs in many thousands of cases? Will Big Tobacco be able to successfully delay thousands of lawsuits in hopes that plaintiffs will die and never have their day of justice? Only time will tell.
The Daily Business Review just reported on a case decided in Broward County in which a jury of good citizens not only agreed to award damages on behalf of a smoking victim, but also, the jury found that Liggett (Big Tobacco) was negligent in continuing to manufacture a product they knew to be harmful.
Liggett, of course, appealed the verdict and argued that “where Congress clearly intends to keep cigarettes on the market, the manufacture of them can not be considered…” negligent. Now, there is an interesting argument. Given that the Big Tobacco lobby is one of the most influential in the nation, we would not expect politicians tied to the lobbyists at the hip to “kill the fatted calf”.
The thousands of lawsuits filed in the aftermath of “Engle” will undoubtedly uncover many faux pas on the part of Big Tobacco. My guess is that issues relating to their putting on seminars for judges in hopes of gaining judicial influence will surface. Big Tobacco’s marketing of addiction to US soldiers by giving away cigarettes in World War II will likely come to light. Joe Camel’s attempts at targeting children for smoking campaigns and the deceptions that “light” cigarettes are better for you may even find their way to the surface.
With thousands of trials going on all over Florida, the truth about Big Tobacco is bound to come out. Just for sake of full disclosure, I think we need to advise all the Big Tobacco executives that Florida’s sunshine is known to cause or increase the risk of cancer; especially as a result of long exposure to it. We warn you that allowing Florida citizens to see you in the light of truth may be hazardous to Big Tobacco’s health.