Florida Widow Wins $5.9 Million In Tobacco Wrongful Death Suit

by Tara Arick on April 23, 2013 · 0 comments

in Product Liability

- From LexisNexis® Mealey’s™ Daily Legal News.

A federal jury in Florida returned a verdict of $ 5.9 million in compensatory damages April 18 to the widow of a Florida man and against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (Thelma Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 3:09-cv-10928, M.D. Fla.).

The jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found the late Richard “Buck” Aycock to have been 27.5 percent responsible, which will reduce the award to Thelma Ruth Aycock, his wife of 53 years, to approximately $ 4.2 million.

The jury found that Richard Aycock was addicted to nicotine and that nicotine addiction and lung cancer caused by smoking were the legal cause of his death.

The case is one of thousands often referred to as “Engle progeny,” stemming from the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in Engle v. Liggett Group Inc. (945 So. 2d 1246 [Fla. 2006]). The federal cases are consolidated in the Middle District of Florida. The original case was a class-action lawsuit filed against cigarette makers in 1994. The class was decertified after a $ 145 billion punitive damages verdict, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled that individual cases could proceed using liability findings from the class trial.

No Reliance

The jury found Aycock did not rely to his detriment on omissions or misrepresentations by tobacco companies and, therefore, did not answer the question on punitive damages.

Richard Aycock began smoking cigarettes in his late teens in the 1930s, according to a press release issued by Aycock’s counsel, which said he smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day for more than five decades.

Thelma Aycock is represented by Norwood S. “Woody” Wilner and Richard Lantinberg of the Wilner Firm in Jacksonville and Kenneth S. Byrd of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein in Nashville, Tenn. R.J. Reynolds is represented by Randal S. Baringer, Christopher Allen Kreiner, L. Christine Lawson, Aulica Lin Monroe, Morgan Earnest Persinger and Jack Williams of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice in Winston Salem, N.C.; Paul D. Clement of Bancroft in Washington, D.C.; Jeffrey Lee Furr of King & Spalding in Charlotte, N.C.; Andrew J. Knight II, Robert B. Parrish, Joseph W. Prichard Jr., Joseph Matthew Rabil, David Clifford Reeves, Thomas C. Sullivan and Jeffrey Alan Yarbrough of Moseley, Prichard, Parrish, Knight & Jones in Jacksonville; and Stephanie E. Parker, John M. Walker and John Fachet Yarber of Jones Day in Atlanta.

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