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Brannock & Humphries Wins Long, Hard-Fought Tobacco Case

One of the longest and hardest-fought cases in Brannock & Humphries’ history has finally come to an end, with the decision by tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris to abandon attempts at further review after several appellate victories by Brannock & Humphries.

Andy Allen, represented by Morgan & Morgan’s skilled Engle-progeny litigation team of Greg Prysock, Keith Mitnik, and Katy Massa, brought a lawsuit against Reynolds and Philip Morris arising out of the smoking-related death of Andy’s wife, Patricia.  Brannock & Humphries jumped on board in 2010 to assist at the trial and to handle the inevitable appeal.  

The lawsuit, one of many Engle-progeny cases litigated by Brannock & Humphries, concerned the all-too-common tragic story about the decades-long efforts of the tobacco industry to addict new smokers while denying that smoking was either unhealthy or addictive.  And, as usual, Reynolds and Morris spared nothing in their attempt to deny justice to the Allens.

The case had an especially long and tortured history.  The Allens first prevailed in May 2011 after a three-week trial in Jacksonville.  The First District Court of Appeal, however, reversed the jury’s verdict on a highly technical and unusual ruling concerning proof of addiction.  Undaunted, the trial and appellate teams went back to work and won a second verdict after a second three-week trial in 2014—securing an even larger award than the first trial.

This time, the verdict stuck on appeal—but not without another tough fight.  Now the battleground involved claims by Reynolds and Philip Morris that one of the jurors in the second trial was biased against the tobacco industry and had hidden that bias during the selection of the jury.  After a drawn-out and complicated post-trial process, Brannock & Humphries and the trial team demonstrated that the juror was not biased and that the tobacco companies’ attack was strategically raised too late.  The First District, in a divided 2-1 opinion, agreed.

The battle continued, however, when the entire First District, in a rare move, decided to hear the case en banc, breathing new life into the tobacco companies’ attack on the jury.  Brannock & Humphries filed an opposition before the entire court, suggesting that the original panel decision was correct and that the case was not appropriate for en banc review.  The First District ultimately agreed, withdrew its order taking the case en banc, and allowed the 2-1 appellate decision to stand.

Reynolds and Philip Morris then took the case to the Florida Supreme Court, which declined to exercise jurisdiction in February 2018 after additional briefing by Brannock & Humphries.  Finally, in May 2018, the tobacco companies abandoned any further efforts to challenge the verdict and made arrangements to pay the judgment.  After eight years, many thousands of pages of record, and thousands of hours by Morgan & Morgan in the trial court and Brannock & Humphries on appeal, the Allens received long overdue justice.

Every Brannock & Humphries lawyer and staff member contributed in some fashion to this hard-fought team victory.  Once again, Brannock & Humphries went head-to-head with the best firms and trial and appellate lawyers in the country and achieved justice for its clients.