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Surge of Tobacco Suits Coming in FL

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

It’s been two decades since two lawyers filed a class-action suit for 500,000 Floridians, claiming Big Tobacco had conspired to hide its dangers and addiction risk. But it’s only now that thousands of lawsuits related to that case are moving forward, the Tampa Bay Timesreports.

The floodgates opened when the U.S. Supreme Court this month declined to consider the tobacco industry’s argument  of unfair treatment, the Times reports.

Florida’s 2,000 to 3,000 pending lawsuits are related to the so-called Engle argument, established by lawyers Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt of Miami in 1994, according to the Times. Their lawsuit led to a $145 billion judgment against Big Tobacco, but the Florida Supreme Court tossed out the award in 2006.

The remaining individual cases in Florida dwarf in number the estimated 100 similar cases elsewhere across the county, the Times reports.

For example, a Palm Beach County jury on Friday found R.J. Reynold’s Tobacco Co. responsible for the death of a Boynton Beach woman’s mother, the Palm Beach Post reports. The jury is deciding this week how much the tobacco company should pay for the 1993 death of Juanita Thurston, a lifelong smoker who died of lung cancer, the Post reports.

The daughter is one of about 75 Floridians so far to have a jury award damages against a tobacco company for the death of a loved one, according to the Post.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.