Federal Tobacco Lawsuits Settle While State Cases Continue

According to one news source, a settlement was recently reached between three of the largest tobacco companies in the country and the approximately 400 plaintiffs who sued them for smoking-related injuries and deaths. The settlement, which resolves only cases pending in a Florida federal court, is believed to be worth $100 million. Thousands of other cases filed against the tobacco companies in Florida state courts are not affected by the settlement. Those cases will proceed unabated.

The cases that settled in federal court were the outgrowth of a 2006 case decided by the Florida Supreme Court. While the court in that case agreed that the tobacco companies knowingly hid the dangers of smoking from the public, it also ruled that the plaintiffs who joined together in that suit could no longer proceed as a class. This meant that the plaintiffs were left to file individual cases in federal court.

To take effect, the settlement must still be approved by all of the plaintiffs with cases in federal court. After the settlement was announced, lawyers for the tobacco companies vowed to zealously fight the cases that are still pending in Florida state courts.

Tobacco Lawsuits in Florida

The history of tobacco litigation is a confusing and busy one. The most monumental tobacco case was settled in 1998, when the attorneys general from 46 states reached a settlement with the four largest tobacco companies in the country. As part of the settlement, the tobacco companies agreed to pay the states for Medicaid costs related to smoking illnesses and deaths.

Individual cases against the tobacco companies sprouted up around the same time that the states came together in the late 1990s, and they have proliferated since the 2006 ruling requiring that all suits against the companies proceed individually, rather than as a class.

The 2006 case made it easier for Florida plaintiffs to sue the tobacco companies. In its decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that injured parties are not required to prove at trial that the tobacco companies knowingly sold dangerous products to the public. Instead, the court said, juries may consider this fact as true without even hearing evidence on the issue. The court also ruled that plaintiffs do not have to prove that tobacco companies hid the risks of smoking. This too, the court said, is a fact that a jury may simply accept as true in its deliberations.

Fortunately for Floridians, plaintiffs in wrongful death cases filed in state court fare better than plaintiffs who filed in federal courts. On average, the tobacco companies pay out approximately $4.5 million per case in state court and lose more than half of the cases they defend.

Has One of Your Family Members Died From a Smoking-Related Illness? Are You Suffering From a Smoking-Related Illness?

Litigation involving smoking has been going on since the 1950s. Over the last 20 years, the tide has shifted in favor of those who have been injured by smoking. Before that, the tobacco companies rarely lost. This is no longer the case. Even so, cases against the tobacco companies are not a slam dunk. To prevail, plaintiffs need seasoned attorneys who understand the history of tobacco litigation and who will fight tooth and nail for their rights. The lawyers at Dean Law Firm have over 30 years of combined experience handling personal injury cases. If you have lost a loved one because of smoking, or if you are personally suffering from a condition you believe may be caused by smoking, contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation at 352-387-8700. You can place your trust in us.

More Blog Posts:

Canadian Motorcyclist Killed in Accident in Florida, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 22, 2015.

Florida’s “2 Drunk 2 Care” Driver Pleads Guilty to DUI Manslaughter in Fatal Crash, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 3, 2015.

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