Brannock & Humphries Wins Two Appeals On Same Day
The first case involved a challenge by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to an $11.75 million judgment in favor of the wife of a smoker whose lifelong addiction to Reynolds’ cigarettes led to his COPD and eventual death. After the Volusia County jury rendered its verdict, Reynolds first asked the trial court to set aside the jury’s decision or to grant a new trial. Brannock & Humphries convinced the trial court to deny this motion out of hand and to enter final judgment in favor of the plaintiff. Reynolds then appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, raising several challenges to the verdict and judgment, including that some witnesses allegedly changed their testimony and that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the law. Brannock & Humphries filed an extensive written brief in response and then presented oral argument on November 19. Today, the Fifth District issued an unelaborated affirmance of the trial court’s judgment, meaning that the jury’s decision is fully preserved. This is a complete win for the plaintiff and for the excellent trial team from Morgan & Morgan’s Jacksonville, Orlando, and Nashville offices.
In the second case, another verdict against R.J. Reynolds in favor of the estate of a deceased smoker, the tobacco giant challenged a $19.5 million award, which included $15 million in punitive damages designed to punish Reynolds for its decades-long conspiracy to hide the negative effects of smoking from the public. This appeal involved a challenge that harkened back to the original class action case, known as Engle, that Reynolds tried to creatively repackage two decades after the Engle trial to avoid the Pasco County jury’s decision here. Comprehensively addressing the record from both the Engle case and the case on appeal, Brannock & Humphries persuaded the Second District Court of Appeal, through written briefing and an oral argument on November 20, to reject Reynolds’ arguments without comment. The appellate court’s per curiam affirmance is a total victory for the plaintiff and another excellent group of trial lawyers, including the Ruth Law Team in St. Petersburg and the Paul Knopf Bigger firm in Tampa.
Brannock & Humphries is proud to have helped these two deserving plaintiffs and trial teams preserve their great wins.