Editorials

The Engle verdicts and tobacco litigation

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7257.312 (Published 05 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:312

Incriminating documents drive the lawsuits, but destination remains uncertain

  1. Richard A Daynard, professor of law (rdaynard@lynx.neu.edu)
  1. Northeastern University School of Law, 400 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

    Education and debate p 366

    It may be portentous that the $145bn in punitive damage verdicts against the American cigarette manufacturers were handed down by the jury in the Engle class action on 14 July. 1 2 The industry's lawyers alternatively characterised the verdicts as a mortal threat to the industry or as a legal chimera, certain to evaporate when tested on appeal. We will not know whether these verdicts were the tobacco industry's death knell until the Florida Supreme Court rules, perhaps two years from now.

    The punitive awards for damages were actually the third round of verdicts that the Engle jury lobbed at the tobacco industry. A year earlier the jury found that cigarette smoking caused 20 diseases, and that the five cigarette manufacturer defendants, individually and in conspiracy with each other and two trade groups they had created, committed a variety of torts including fraud and fraudulent concealment. Then, in April 2000 the …

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