Cases & Deals

R.J. Reynolds wins reversal of verdict in Engle progeny case

Client(s) R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

On October 16, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision reversing a multi-million dollar judgment against Jones Day client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Aycock is one of thousands of Engle progeny cases -- individual smoker lawsuits filed following the Florida Supreme Court's decision in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006). The smoker in the Aycock case had been a heavy drinker, but the trial court excluded Reynolds from introducing all but the most generic evidence of his alcohol use. The Eleventh Circuit found that this was error and reversed and remanded for a new trial. The court first found that the trial court had wrongly shifted the burden of proof on disease causation from the plaintiff to Reynolds. The court noted that evidence of alcohol use was relevant not only to disease causation, but also to comparative fault and damages. And the court rejected the suggestion that detailed evidence of alcohol use would be unduly prejudicial, since the jury had already heard in general terms that the smoker drank heavily.

The R.J. Reynolds appellate team included partners Gregory Katsas (Washington), who argued the appeal before the Eleventh Circuit, Stephanie Parker and Jack Williams (Atlanta), and Charles Morse (New York).

Aycock v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., No. 13-14060 (11th Cir.)