The Florida Supreme Court has just declined to review a lower court’s decision upholding a $3.3 million compensatory damages verdict and a $25 million punitive damages verdict for the widow of a smoker. The case name was Martin v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
The effect of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to not review the case is that the lower court decision stands as the final decision in the case. By declining to review the lower court’s decision, the Supreme Court has basically said, “We think you got it right.” RJR Tobacco is shocked and probably livid about the decision. For months, RJR has asserted that they fully expected the decision to be overturned on appeal.
The American Association for Justice reported that one of the lawyers for Ms. Martin said, “by leaving that ruling intact, the supreme court paved the way for juries to continue to consider all the evidence regarding the fraud and deceit of the cigarette industry and the tragic toll it’s taken on American families.”
Ms. Martin was the first in a long line of cigarette cases to reach the appellate court level. In her brief to the state supreme court, Ms. Martin’s lawyers said that after 17 years of litigation, the first appellate case has plowed through RJR’s endlessly repetitious defenses to obtain a fully reviewed final judgment.
This result will likely mean that more of these smoker cases will go to trial. So far the victims have won 33 out of 46 cigarette cases that have gone to trial. RJR claims they will appeal this decision to the US Supreme Court. While the endless repetition of baseless defenses continues, the rope is getting tighter and shorter.