Tobacco Companies Appeal $35M Sick Smoker Case

May 17, 2017

Two cigarette makers are asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up a case in which an appeals court said a longtime smoker and his wife should receive $35 million because of “intentional” wrongdoing in the past by the tobacco industry.

Philip Morris USA and Liggett Group LLC are challenging a 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling last month in favor of Richard Boatright, who developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at age 39 because of smoking and had to undergo two double-lung transplants, according to documents posted Tuesday on the Supreme Court website.

In the lawsuit filed in Polk County, a jury awarded $15 million in compensatory damages to Boatright and his wife and $20 million in punitive damages. A judge, however, reduced the compensatory damages to $12.75 million because of what is known as "comparative" fault involving Boatright's smoking.

Almost all of the verdict was against Philip Morris, with a small amount against Liggett. A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, however, ruled that Boatright and his wife should receive the full $35 million and detailed past misconduct by the tobacco industry.

As is common, Philip Morris and Liggett did not detail their legal arguments in giving notice of the appeal to the Supreme Court.

The case is one of thousands in Florida that are known as "Engle progeny" cases. Such cases are linked to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers.