Broward County Jury Awards $8 Million to Smoker's Widow
On February 18, 2009, a Broward County jury ordered Philip Morris to pay $8 million to Elaine Hess, the widow of a smoker who died of lung cancer due to his addiction to nicotine that caused him to chain smoke two packs of cigarettes daily for decades. In apportioning fault for Stuart Hess’ death, the jury found him 58% responsible and Phillip Morris 42% responsible. Mrs. Hess was awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Philip Morris has vowed to challenge the verdict on appeal.
The Hess v. R.J. Reynolds case is the first trial of approximately 8,000 cases filed against Big Tobacco in the Florida court system as a result of a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 in the case of Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc. that disbanded a class action of an estimated 700,000 Floridians. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the $145 billion punitive damage award in Engle and ordered that plaintiffs must prove one-by-one that addiction to cigarettes caused their illnesses, but allowed individual plaintiffs to utilize key findings from the Engle trial. Another 25 tobacco cases are on trial dockets in Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Jacksonville and should go to trial before the end of April 2009. Hopefully dozens of other cases will be set for trial before the end of the year. The law firm of Alley, Clark & Greiwe currently has four cases scheduled for trial in 2009, two in Broward County and two in Hillsborough.