The parent company of cigarette maker Liggett Group has agreed to pay more than 4,900 Florida smokers a total of $100 million to resolve individual lawsuits filed after a state-wide class action was disbanded.
The Miami-based parent company, Vector Group, agreed to pay $61 million in a lump sum, and $49 million over 15 years to resolve most of the cases. The proposed settlement would be final in about three months.
The individual cases flow from a class action filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in 1994 bearing the name of Miami Beach pediatrician Howard Engle.
Vector chairman Bennett S. LeBow called the agreement a "landmark settlement, which prudently resolves substantially all of the Engle progeny cases pending against us."
The participating law firms - about 60- are winding down the process of getting their clients' releases. About 5,300 Engle cases are pending, which means the agreement will end 92% of the cases. Not accounting for attorney fees, the settlement values the average case at $22,500.
None of the other major tobacco companies- Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co.,- has expressed any interest in settlement talks.
The attorneys at Freidin Brown, P.A. has handled several cases stemming from the Engle class action that was disbanded by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006.
Freidin Brown, P.A. was part of a team that also won a $3.48 million dollar verdict against R.J. Reynolds for the family of a smoker who died of smoking-related cancer.
Philip Marotta began smoking at 12, and for all his adult life smoked two to three packs a day of Winston cigarettes. Marotta was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1994, and died just over six months later at 47. He left behind three children.
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Source: DBR, "Liggett to pay $110 million to resolve smoker lawsuits," Oct. 24, 2013.