Cases & Deals

R.J. Reynolds wins complete defense verdict in Ellis "Engle progeny" lawsuit

Client(s) R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

On December 7, 2018, following ten days of trial, a jury in Tampa, Florida returned a defense verdict in favor of Jones Day client R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in a wrongful death action. The plaintiff in Ellis, the son of a deceased former smoker, claimed that his late mother 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 therefore entitled to the benefit of certain generalized findings of liability made in the Engle class action trial. Plaintiff asserted claims for strict liability, negligence, fraudulent concealment, and conspiracy and pointed to his mother’s death certificate that attributed her death to end stage COPD. He sought compensatory damages of over $10 million for himself and his five siblings as well as punitive damages. After approximately two and a half hours of deliberations, the jury returned a complete defense verdict, finding that Mr. Ellis’ mother did not suffer from COPD and was not a member of the decertified Engle class.

George Ellis, as personal representative of the estate of Loretta M. Ellis v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., Case No. 10-CA-016308 (13th Jud. Cir., Hillsborough Co. Fla.)