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| Levin Papantonio

The deadline for former smokers in Florida to file their injury lawsuits against big tobacco has come and gone and estimates of the number filed are still under 10,000 total suits. That is a far cry from the 700,000 class members originally designated as entitled to damage awards. The Florida Supreme Court took away that award but did let stand the jury findings that the companies were negligent and their product was defective. It is still unclear how those findings will benefit those who have now filed individual cases, but it is certain that trial courts will not make a nullity of what the Supreme court intended to do: make it easier for individual claimants by not requiring every one of them to re-prove the obvious. Tobacco companies used to be able to tie up proceedings for years arguing against the obvious.
As for the small numbers who filed, I suppose tobacco stocks will get a bump and tobacco spokesman are already suggesting that potential claimants are “too embarassed” to make claim. That is clever jury tampering for sure. The real reason for the limited numbers was well stated by Reuters news service :

Many of the plaintiffs were elderly. A large number died and had no survivors to carry on the fight. Others were disqualified by legal deadlines that require such lawsuits be filed within a certain amount of time. Others simply didn’t contact attorneys until it was too late.

See the interview of Levin Papantonio attorney Matt Schultz at CBS News.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective and Dangerous Products.

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