Cases & Deals

R.J. Reynolds wins jury verdict in Chamberlain ''Engle progeny'' trial

Client(s) R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

On November 15, 2013, following nine days of trial and less than two hours of deliberation, a jury in Fort Myers, Florida returned a verdict in favor of Jones Day client R.J. Reynolds in a personal injury action finding that the smoker was not an Engle class member. This win was particularly significant because it was the first living smoker Engle progeny case tried in federal court.

The plaintiff in the Chamberlain case was an 83 year old former smoker of cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds and was represented by Richard Heimann of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein. The plaintiff asserted claims for strict liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy, and punitive damages, and sought millions of dollars in damages. The plaintiff argued that he was a member of the class decertified by the Florida Supreme Court in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006), after a year-long trial in 1999.  The Florida Supreme Court’s decision in that case allowed putative class members to initiate individual lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers, with certain generalized findings from the 1999 class action trial to be given an unspecified “res judicata effect.” This resulted in more than 9,000 plaintiffs filing cases in the state and federal courts of Florida.

The Jones Day trial team was led by Atlanta partners Stephanie Parker and David Monde with assistance from Atlanta partners John Walker and John Yarber, and from associates Jason Burnette (Atlanta), Tim Fiorta (Cleveland), Jordon Patterson (Atlanta), Katie Tucker (Atlanta), and Jenn Weizenecker (Atlanta).

Chamberlain v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 3:09-cv-10809 (M.D. Fla., Fort Myers Div.)