Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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At issue in this case was the definition of “manifestation” for purposes of determining class membership in the Engle class. In Engle v. Liggett, the Supreme Court held that membership in the Engle class is established when the tobacco-related disease or medical condition “first manifested itself.” In the instant case, Plaintiff, as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased husband (Decedent), filed suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. The trial court instructed the jury that “manifestation” occurred when Decedent experienced symptoms of or was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease. Decedent was not diagnosed until after the November 21, 1996, cut-off date for Engle class membership. The jury decided the issue of Engle class membership in favor of Plaintiff and later found in favor of Plaintiff on the majority of her claims. The Court of Appeal largely affirmed, concluding that Decedent’s “pre-1996 knowledge of a causal link between symptoms and tobacco” was unnecessary for class membership. The Supreme Court approved the Court of Appeal’s definition of “manifestation,” holding that “manifestation” for purposes of establishing membership in the Engle class is defined as the point at which the plaintiff began suffering from or experiencing symptoms of a tobacco-related disease or medical condition. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone" on Justia Law

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Maurice Soffer died from lung cancer caused by smoking. Soffer’s widow, Lucille Soffer, brought a wrongful death action against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company pursuant to Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., alleging four causes of action, all of which had been pled in the Engle class litigation. Prior to trial, Soffer moved to amend her complaint to add a demand for punitive damages. The trial court granted the motion to amend. A judgment was entered for Soffer in the amount of $2 million. Soffer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it was prohibited from awarding punitive damages on the counts for negligence and strict liability based on the procedural posture of the original Engle class action. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that individual members of the Engle class action are bound by the procedural prosture of the Engle class representatives when they pursue their individual lawsuits and, thus, cannot seek punitive damages on negligence or strict liability counts. The Supreme Court quashed the Court of Appeal’s decision, holding that the individual members of the Engle class action are not prevented from seeking punitive damages on all claims properly raised in their subsequent individual actions. View "Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a motion for class certification filed in the trial court by petitioner where petitioner claimed that respondent violated sections 627.840(3)(b) and 627.835, Florida Statutes, by knowingly overcharging him an additional service charge of $20 twice in a twelve month period in two premium finance agreements which he entered into with respondent. At issue was whether the putative class members satisfied the requirements of commonality and predominance needed for class certification under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.220. The court held that the Third District's decision was incorrect because it afforded no deference to the trial court's actual factual findings and conducted a de novo review which constituted error where the proper appellate standard of review for a grant of class certification was abuse of discretion. The court also held that the Third District incorrectly addressed whether petition satisfied section 627.835's "knowingly" requirement and incorrectly held that petitioner and the putative class members failed to satisfy rule 1.220's commonality and predominance requirements. Therefore, the court held that the Third District created conflict with Olen Properties Corp. v. Moss and Smith v. Glen Cove Apartments Condominiums Master Ass'n. Accordingly, the court quashed the Third District's judgment.