The United States Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Liggett Group of a Florida Supreme Court ruling that made it easier to sue cigarette manufacturers. The refusal to hear the case effectively ends legal recourse for the tobacco companies on this issue.
The companies had appealed a $2.5 million jury award to the family of a 62-year-old smoker who died of lung cancer in an attempt to limit individual product liability lawsuits. To date, Florida juries have issued over $500 million in judgments against tobacco companies. 4,500 suits are still pending.
A Florida Supreme Court decision in 2006 ruled that tobacco companies knowingly sold toxic products while hiding the negative effects of smoking. Because of that ruling, plaintiffs do not have to prove that cigarettes are dangerous in individual lawsuits. Instead, plaintiffs only need to prove that they (or their deceased loved ones) were addicted to cigarettes, failed to quit smoking, and that cigarettes were the cause of illness or death.