The Florida Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the appeal of a plaintiff whose $8 million verdict against a tobacco company was thrown out by a state Appeals Court and subsequently denied a review by a larger panel of judges. The victim’s lawsuit claimed that R.J. Reynolds tobacco company produced a defective product which ultimately contributed to the plaintiff developing mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.
The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit alleged that the victim’s cancer developed through exposure to asbestos-laden filters on Kent cigarettes the plaintiff smoked in the 1950s as well as exposure to asbestos in gaskets produced by Crane Co. A jury initially awarded the plaintiff $8 million for his injuries, including pain and suffering, as compensation for the defendants producing a product which they knew contained harmful substances but did nothing to warn consumers about.
However, the defendants appealed the verdict on the grounds that the trial court improperly admitted an expert witness for the plaintiffs who specialized in occupational and environmental medicine. The expert asserted at trial that the type of chrysotile asbestos used in the cigarette filters and gaskets directly contributed to the victim’s injuries. Another expert witness for the plaintiff also testified as to the link between the victim’s diagnosis and exposure to the defective products developed and sold by the defendants.
The state Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter in a 4-3 vote after the plaintiff appealed the Appeals Court’s vacating of the substantial verdict. Attorneys for the plaintiff argued the Appeals Court improperly applied a state law that sets standards for the qualifications of expert witnesses at trial, an issue which the defense raised in its own appeal of the trial court’s verdict. Defense attorneys argued in their appeal that the experts failed to meet the state’s “Daubert analysis” because the experts were medical doctors and not scientists and experts in applicable fields.
In addition to possibly reinstating the substantial verdict for the plaintiff, the case may also end up setting an important precedent in future civil claims brought against large corporations like Crane Co. and R.J. Reynolds. Often times, defendants invent creative excuses as to why verdicts handed down by a jury should be tossed aside on the basis on an obscure technicality. Hopefully, the Florida Supreme Court will determine that the trial court did not err in allowing the plaintiff’s experts to testify and reinstate the award to help make the victim and his family whole again.
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If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced nationwide mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.