Family of longtime smoker recovers more than $71M

September 19, 2012

Verdict: (P) $75,350,000.00
Case Type: Tobacco, Intentional Torts – Conspiracy , Products Liability – Design Defect
Case Name: Marvine Calloway as personal representative of the Estate of Johnnie Calloway and Starr Williams v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Inc., Philip Morris USA Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Liggett Group LLC, No. 08-80000 (21)
Venue: Broward County Circuit Court, FL
Judge: John J. Murphy
Date: 05-31-2012
Plaintiff(s):
Attorney(s):
  • Jonathan Gdanski; Schlesinger Law Offices, PA; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Marvine Calloway, Estate of Johnnie Calloway, Starr Williams
  • Steven J. Hammer; Schlesinger Law Offices, PA; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Marvine Calloway, Estate of Johnnie Calloway, Starr Williams
  • Crane A. Johnstone; Schlesinger Law Offices, PA; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Marvine Calloway, Estate of Johnnie Calloway, Starr Williams
  • Scott P. Schlesinger; Schlesinger Law Offices, PA; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Marvine Calloway, Estate of Johnnie Calloway, Starr Williams

Expert(s):
  • Mark Cummins; Addiction Behavior; Avon, IL called by: Jonathan Gdanski, Steven Hammer, Crane Johnstone, Scott Schlesinger
  • Mark Soloway M.D.; Urology; Miami, FL called by: Jonathan Gdanski, Steven Hammer, Crane Johnstone, Scott Schlesinger
  • Robert Proctor Ph.D.; Historian; Palo Alto, CA called by: Jonathan Gdanski, Steven Hammer, Crane Johnstone, Scott Schlesinger
  • Michael Cummings Ph.D.; Addiction Behavior; Roswell Park, NY called by: Jonathan Gdanski, Steven Hammer, Crane Johnstone, Scott Schlesinger
  • Joseph Drifranza M.D.; Addiction Medicine; Worcester, MA called by: Jonathan Gdanski, Benjamine Reid, Kathleen Gallagher, Steven Hammer
Defendant(s):
Attorney(s):
  • Kathleen Gallagher; Beck, Redden & Secrest LLP; Houston, TX, for Philip Morris USA Inc.
  • Eliot Pedrosa; Greenberg Trauig P.A.; Miami, FL, for Lorillard Tobacco Co.
  • Benjamine Reid; Carlton Fields, P.A.; Miami, FL, for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Inc.
  • Ann M. St. Peter-Griffth; Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP; Miami, FL, for Liggett Group LLC

Expert(s):
  • Paul Phillips M.D.; Cardiology; Clearwater, FL called by: Benjamine Reid, Kathleen Gallagher, Eliot Pedrosa, Ann St. Peter-Griffth
  • Jack Abramson M.D.; Addiction Medicine; Miami, FL called by: Benjamine Reid, Kathleen Gallagher, Eliot Pedrosa, Ann St. Peter-Griffth
  • D. MacIntyre M.D.; Infectious Diseases; Miami, FL called by: Benjamine Reid, Kathleen Gallagher, Eliot Pedrosa, Ann St. Peter-Griffth
  • Alan Neider M.D.; Urology; Miami Beach, FL called by: Benjamine Reid, Kathleen Gallagher, Eliot Pedrosa, Ann St. Peter-Griffth
Facts:

On July 2, 1992, plaintiff’s decedent Johnnie Calloway, 59, a construction worker, died, purportedly from heart disease and bladder cancer due to cigarette smoking.

Calloway’s widow and one of his eight children, on behalf of his estate, sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA, the Liggett Group and Lorillard Tobacco Co., claiming products liability and conspiracy. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Calloway began smoking the defendants’ cigarettes 40 years prior to his death and smoked up to three packs a day. The plaintiff’s addiction expert testified that Calloway was addicted to nicotine. The plaintiff’s medical experts testified that Calloway contracted heart disease and bladder cancer due to smoking, and that these were the cause of his death. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the Engle case established that cigarettes are defective and unreasonably dangerous, and that the defendants conspired to conceal the health dangers of cigarette smoking from the public.

The defense addiciton expert testified that Calloway was not addicted to cigarettes. Defense counsel argued there was no proof that Calloway’s heart disease or bladder cancer was caused by the defendants’ products. The defense medical experts argued that Calloway was diabetic, a risk factor for both heart disease and cancer, and that Calloway’s exposure to concrete dust at construction sites was another cancer risk. Defense counsel disputed that the cancer or the heart disease was the cause of death, with defense medical experts testifying that Calloway died of an unrelated infection.

 

 

Injury:

Calloway’s family claimed that the defendants’ products caused Calloway to contract heart disease and bladder cancer, leading to his death. They sought an unspecified amount in actual and punitive damages.

 

Verdict Information:

The jury found that the defendants had agreed to conceal and omit information on the health effects of cigarettes, and that this conspiracy and their cigarettes were the cause of Calloway’s death. It determined that damages totaled $75,350,000, which were reduced to $71,146,500 for comparative liability. R.J. Reynolds was found 27 percent liable, Philip Morris 25 percent, Lorillard 18 percent, Liggett 9.5 percent and Calloway 20.5 percent. Calloway’s widow, Marvine Calloway, was awarded $12 million and Calloway’s daughter Starr Williams was awarded $8.5 million. The jury awarded $54,850,000 in punitive damages: $17,250,000 against R.J. Reynolds, $17.4 million against Philip Morris, $12.6 million against Lorillard and $7.6 million against Liggett.

 

Estate of Johnnie Calloway

$54,850,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages

Marvine Calloway

$9,000,000 Personal Injury: loss of companionship and mental anguish

$3,000,000 Personal Injury: loss of support and services

Starr Williams

$7,100,000 Personal Injury: loss of companionship, guidance and mental anguish

$1,400,000 Personal Injury: loss of support and services

Editor’s Comments:

This report is based on information provided by counsel for plainiffs and Lorillard. Counsel for Ligget declined comment. Counsel for remaining defendants did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.

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