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Brannock & Humphries Scores Groundbreaking Victory In Cigarette Appeal

Brannock & Humphries won a new trial for the widow of an addicted smoker who died from lung cancer, persuading the Third District Court of Appeal in the process to announce an important clarification of the requirements for bringing a lawsuit against a cigarette manufacturer under Florida law.

The addicted smoker was Robiel Chacon.  He had a successful clothing business in New York, but in the late 1980s, he and his family decided to move to Miami.  After they moved and established their new home there, Mr. Chacon periodically traveled back to New York to check up on his clothing business.  Once he was diagnosed with lung cancer, though, he shut down the business and spent his final years in his Miami home.

When Mrs. Chacon later sued a cigarette company as part of the Engle-progeny litigation, seeking to recover damages for various types of misconduct that caused Mr. Chacon’s death, the company convinced the trial court to instruct the jury that Mr. Chacon had to be both a citizen and a resident of Florida to be a member of the Engle class action.  The jury found that he wasn’t both a Florida citizen and a Florida resident, so Mrs. Chacon lost at trial.

But thanks to the advocacy of Brannock & Humphries, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed and granted a new trial to Mrs. Chacon.  The appellate court explained that it is not necessary to be both a Florida citizen and a Florida resident to qualify for the Engle class—either one is sufficient.  This was the first appellate decision to address that issue directly, and it will be an important benefit for injured smokers and their families who had homes in multiple states or who had recently moved to Florida during the time period covered by the Engle decision.

The opinion can be found here.