Press release from Business Wire
Federal Appeals Court Ruling Restricts Plaintiffs Use of Engle Findings
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Federal Appeals Court Ruling Restricts Plaintiffs Use of Engle Findings13:10 EDT Thursday, July 22, 2010 RICHMOND, Va. (Business Wire) -- Philip Morris USA (PM USA) said a federal appeals court today severely restricted the ability of approximately 4,000 plaintiffs with so-called Engle progeny cases pending in federal court to use findings by the prior Engle jury to meet their burden of proof at trial. None of the plaintiffs who have obtained verdicts in state court have complied with the requirements set forth by today's rulings. The Engle cases filed in federal court follow a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision that decertified a class action but allowed former class members to file individual lawsuits by January 2008. “We are pleased that the appellate court has rejected arguments by plaintiffs that they have an automatic and unlimited right to use the findings,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of PM USA. “In the court's own words, plaintiffs have a ‘considerable task' to show with ‘reasonable certainty' that the facts they want to establish were ‘actually decided' by the prior jury,” added Garnick. “Today's decision applies directly to the approximately 4,000 claims pending in federal court, and is persuasive authority for Florida state courts that have been allowing plaintiffs to rely on the Engle findings at trial without satisfying the requirements of Florida law or due process,” added Garnick. As the Eleventh Circuit noted, “the plaintiffs have pointed to nothing in the record, and there is certainly nothing in the jury findings themselves to support their factual assertion” of specific findings. Approximately 4,000 claims, or roughly half of those filed in the wake of the Florida Supreme Court's decision in Engle, are pending in federal court and were put on hold pending today's ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the federal trial courts only because they inappropriately reached the federal constitutional issue without first fully addressing the application of state law. These cases will return to the federal trial courts in which they were filed for further proceedings.