Thousands of Florida smokers will soon receive the financial compensation for which they have been fighting for years. The Liggett Group has agreed to pay $110 million to settle thousands of Florida lawsuits accusing the tobacco company of concealing the dangers of smoking cigarettes. The settlement will resolve nearly 4,900 of the 5,300 lawsuits pending in Florida against Liggett and its parent company, Vector Group Ltd.
The settlement agreement, which is expected to be finalized within the next three months, will include a lump-sum payment of $61 million and the remaining $49 million will be paid in installments over 15 years to the plaintiffs. Individual settlements range from four to six figures, depending on the extent of the illness and smoking habits of each plaintiff.
The settlement stems from a class action lawsuit was filed against the largest tobacco companies in 1994. In 2000, a Florida jury ordered the companies to pay $145 billion in damages – the largest punitive damages verdict ever – to hundreds of thousands of Florida smokers who had experienced smoking-related illnesses. In 2006, the verdict was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court, which held that the award was “excessive as a matter of law” but that the jury findings would be binding in future Florida smoking-related lawsuits. Accordingly, juries hearing cases since that time have been required to accept the finding that tobacco companies misled smokers about the dangers associated with smoking, which led to a massive influx of lawsuits against the major tobacco companies.
Liability for Failure to Warn
Tobacco companies have been accused of concealing evidence about the dangers of smoking from the public for years. Product manufacturers are obligated to ensure that the product that they are producing is safe and includes all necessary warning labels. If the product fails to include adequate warning labels, the manufacturer can be liable for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In some cases – like the tobacco litigation – the defendant’s conduct may be found to be so egregious that an award of punitive damages is also appropriate. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter future misconduct.
Proving the elements of a manufacturer liability case can be difficult, which is why it is important to consult with an experienced product liability attorney. At Cogan & Power, our Chicago defective product attorneys have considerable experience handling a wide variety of product liability cases, including manufacturer liability cases, unsafe pharmaceutical cases, and defective medical device cases.
If you or a loved one has been injured or a family member has died as a result of a dangerous or defective product, please contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible product liability lawsuit.