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Supreme Court Turns Down Appeal In Tobacco Case

pack of cigarettes
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up an appeal by a woman who sued tobacco companies after her husband died of cancer following decades of smoking.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in March overturned a multimillion-dollar verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. and ordered a new trial in the case filed by Kathleen Gafney.

The appeals court found that Gafney's attorneys during a trial in Palm Beach County circuit court made improper comments aimed, in part, at getting jurors to "send a message" to tobacco companies.

The circuit-court jury had awarded $5.8 million in damages in the case, with the tobacco companies liable for 66 percent of that amount --- about $3.8 million --- and the dead smoker, Frank Gafney, found at fault for 34 percent.

A brief filed in the appeals court said Frank Gafney died in 1995 at age 59 after suffering from lung cancer that metastasized to his brain. It said Frank Gafney started smoking by age 15.

The Supreme Court, as is common, did not give reasons for declining to hear Kathleen Gafney's appeal. But an order from the court said Chief Justice Jorge Labarga supported hearing arguments in the case.