Florida Supreme Court considers case that could make it harder to sue tobacco companies

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 4:05 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - A case before the Florida Supreme Court could make it harder for Floridians to sue tobacco companies for damages.

The case centers around whether smokers have to point to a specific misleading statement that led them to believe smoking was safe and whether findings from a previous class-action lawsuit can be used in other cases.

John Price started smoking at 12-years-old and died from a lung disease in 2010 at the age of 74.

“Had John Price known the truth, would he have acted differently?” said attorney Celene Humphries, who is representing the Price Estate.

Humphries claims Price’s death was the result of a conspiracy to conceal information about the dangers of smoking by R.J. Reynolds.

“The cigarette companies actively suppressed scientific studies on the truth,” said Humphries.

But an Appellate Court overturned an initial ruling in favor of the Price Estate, arguing the plaintiffs failed to point to a specific statement that misled Price.

The Price Estate’s attorney argued while there wasn’t a specific statement that misled him, his smoking behavior shows he was influenced by tobacco company misinformation campaigns.

“When the defendants marketed filters, filtered cigarettes, as safer, which they’re not, they’re more harmful, he responded. He followed their recommendation,” said Humphries.

R.J. Reynolds is not only asking the Florida Supreme Court to uphold the Appellate Court decision but also reverse a 2006 ruling that established findings on the dangers of smoking and misinformation efforts of cigarette makers.

“Our jury had to assume all of that conclusively and we couldn’t dispute it,” said R.J. Reynolds attorney Michael Carvin.

The now entirely Republican-appointed court has shown a willingness to divert from previous court precedents.

If it does so in this case, thousands of pending tobacco lawsuits could be impacted.

The lower court initially awarded the Price Estate $6.4 million in damages, but this case’s potential impact on tobacco companies’ wallets is likely in the hundreds of millions.

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