Cases & Deals

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

Client(s) R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

On October 5, 2015, a jury in Punta Gorda, Florida returned a verdict favorable to Jones Day client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company following 10 days of trial and approximately 4 hours of deliberation in an "Engle progeny" lawsuit. Although the jury determined that the smoker qualified as a member of the Engle class, the jury ultimately found that the smoker was 98 percent responsible for her injuries and that R.J. Reynolds was only 2 percent responsible. Further, even though the plaintiff's counsel asked the jury to award $5 million in compensatory damages in addition to punitive damages, the jury awarded only $5,000. That amount will be reduced to a total award of $100 due to the percentage of fault allotted to R.J. Reynolds. The jury also determined that punitive damages were not warranted.

The plaintiff in the Gordon case was the personal representative of his deceased wife, who had formerly smoked cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds. The plaintiff argued that his wife was a member of the class decertified by the Florida Supreme Court in Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So. 2d 1246 (Fla. 2006), and that he was therefore entitled to the benefit of certain generalized findings made by a jury in the course of the Engle class action trial in 1999. He asserted claims for strict liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment, conspiracy, and punitive damages. The plaintiff claimed damages for his wife's lung cancer and death, and claimed she was a member of the Engle based on her coronary artery disease and COPD.

The Jones Day trial team was led by Kevin Boyce (Cleveland) and Brad Harrison (Cleveland), with assistance from Jordon Patterson (Atlanta), Simon Hansen (Atlanta), and Kaitlin Kline (Cleveland).

Gordon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., Case No. 13-CA-1552 (Fla. 20th Cir. Ct.)