Cases & Deals

R.J. Reynolds wins defense jury verdict on all claims in multi-week Bryant "Engle progeny" trial

Client(s) R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

On September 26, 2014, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ("R.J. Reynolds") secured a complete defense verdict in a multi-week wrongful death jury trial in Hillsborough County, Florida state court seeking to recover for Hayward Bryant, Sr.'s lung cancer and death. Doris Bryant, acting as the personal representative for her deceased husband, asserted multiple products liability and fraud-based claims. She argued that her husband was a member of the class decertified by the Florida Supreme Court in the Engle case after a year-long class action trial in 1999. The Florida Supreme Court's decision allowed putative class members to bring individual lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers, with certain generalized findings from the 1999 class action trial to be given an unspecified "res judicata effect." Further, in 2013, the Florida Supreme Court held in the Douglas case that proof of class membership also establishes liability for a plaintiff's strict liability and negligence claims. To prove that her husband was a part of the class, the plaintiff claimed that he was addicted and that addiction was a legal cause of his lung cancer and death based, in part, on the fact that Mr. Bryant began smoking around age 18 and continued to smoke a pack-and-a-half to two packs of cigarettes daily until shortly before his death in 1996. The plaintiff's counsel sought $10 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages. After no more than two and a half hours of deliberation, the Bryant jury rejected the plaintiff's allegations and determined that Mr. Bryant was not addicted to nicotine and thus was not an Engle class member.

Doris W. Bryant, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Hayward Bryant, Sr. v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Case No. 10-CA-07251-Div. 1 (Fla. 13th Cir., Hillsborough Cty.)