Jury Reaches Defense Verdict in Engle Trial on Smoker with COPD

Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida

After nearly three weeks of trial in Miami, Shook attorneys secured a defense verdict for Philip Morris USA Inc. in an Engle progeny case alleging that the company was liable for the death of a smoker 20 years after she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Seeking a $14 million payout, the smoker’s daughters filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris alleging that the company was liable for her death because she was loyal to its cigarettes. The daughters further claimed that they should be awarded compensatory damages because they cared for their mother.

Shook attorneys argued that the smoker knew the risks and continued to smoke. “This case was about two words: control and responsibility," Shook Partner Bill Geraghty said at trial. "Who was in control of Phyllis Frazier's lifestyle choices? Who was in control of her efforts to quit smoking? Who controlled her motivation to quit?" The jury sided with Philip Morris, finding that the smoker’s use of cigarettes did not meet the legal standard of causation in assessing liability for her death.

Russo v. Philip Morris, No. 2007-44469-CA-01 (Fla. 11th Cir. Ct. 2015).

Additional coverage appears in an article from Law360.