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Widow’s New York Class Action Settlement against Alleged Polluters Did Not Completely Bar Florida Product Liability Suit against Tobacco Companies – Philip Morris U.S.A. Inc. v. Skolnick

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Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Although Berra was talking about sports, the expression is equally true in the law. Procedural matters and other legal finagling can complicate a case to the point where it appears to be finished before it is even tried, but an appellate court may disagree and send the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Similarly, a large jury verdict may make it may seem that one party has surely prevailed over the other, but a higher court may set the verdict aside months or even years later. Ultimately, it is up to the appellate courts to decide, once and for all, when “it’s over.”

In the recent case of Phillip Morris U.S.A., Inc. v. Skolnick, a Florida appellate court determined that, despite legal proceedings dating back to at least 2002, a widow’s attempt at redress for her husband’s death was not over.

The New York Class Action Lawsuit

In 2002, the widow joined a class action lawsuit in New York. The suit was against Verizon Communications and others responsible for the operation of a plant that allegedly emitted toxins, thereby contaminating the water, soil, and air in a certain community. In her complaint joining the suit, the woman alleged that her husband had developed colon and lung cancer because of the toxins. In 2004, the widow executed a settlement agreement in the class action, receiving $60,000 for her husband’s conscious pain and suffering and wrongful death. As consideration for the settlement, the widow executed a release and covenant not to sue concurrent tortfeasors.

The Florida Product Liability Lawsuit

Later, the widow filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendant tobacco companies in the Circuit Court for the the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Palm Beach County, Florida, seeking compensation for her husband’s death. The case was tried to a jury, which found in favor of the plaintiff on part of her claims and in favor of the defendants on the remaining claims. Both parties appealed.

On appeal to the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District of Florida, the court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court. With regard to the plaintiff’s strict liability and negligence claims, the court held that the defendants were entitled to judgment in their favor based upon the widow’s settlement agreement in the New York case. However, the court went on to state that the release did not operate to bar the widow’s fraudulent concealment and conspiracy counts and that she was entitled to a new trial on those claims because of errors the trial court had committed in reliance upon prior Florida case law that had since been reversed.

To Get Advice from an Experienced Florida Product Liability Lawyer

If you have been hurt by a dangerous or defective product, you may have a legal right to seek compensation from the company whose negligence caused your injuries. The experienced product liability attorneys of Cohn & Smith can help you investigate and file your claim. For an appointment, call us 954-431-8100. We represent clients in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach, and throughout South Florida. Injury claims not filed within the statute of limitations period will likely be dismissed as untimely, so do not delay in seeking counsel.

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Florida Supreme Court Upholds $6.26 Million Jury Verdict against Cigarette Manufacturer in Fraudulent Concealment Case – Hess v. Philip Morris USA, Inc.

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