French v. Philip Morris Inc.(ETS (Broin II) FL Sup. Ct. 2000 Pltf Paid) Citation: 897 So.2d 480 (Fla.App. 3 Dist.,2004)
This individual secondhand smoke, personal injury suit was brought by Lynn French against Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, and Brown & Williamson on January 20, 2000, subsequent to the judgment in Broin.
The plaintiff alleged that she suffered from chronic bronchitis sinusitis as a result of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke while working as a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines from 1976 to the present.
The defendants argued that their products were not defective and did not cause Ms. French's injuries.
The case was heard in the Circuit Court for the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Dade County, Florida (Case No. 00-01706 CA 22) before the Honorable Fredricka G. Smith. As one of over 3,000 individual suits filed subsequent to Broin, several of the common issues were ruled upon by Judge Robert Kaye. He ruled that the Broin settlement created a rebuttable presumption for the plaintiff that secondhand smoke caused certain diseases. The burden of proof on the issue of causation was shifted to the defendants. Judge Smith adopted this ruling holding that the plaintiffs would not have to prove liability. The jury only had to determine if secondhand smoke can cause chronic sinusitis, if it did in this case, and what damages the plaintiffs suffered. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff on June 18, 2002 consisting of $5.5 million in compensatory damages. The judge reduced this amount to $500,000 and allocated damages based on the defendants' market share. Both parties appealed. The defendants appealed that the plaintiff failed to prove elements of her charges, that certain testimony was inadmissible, that the plaintiff used prejudicial conduct and that the plaintiff failed to establish each individual defendant's liability. The plaintiff appealed the allocation of liability.
The Florida Third District Court of Appeal (897 So.2d 480) affirmed the judgment in part and reversed it in part on December 22, 2004. The appeal was heard by the Honorable Judges Schwartz, Green and Shevin. The court held that, under the terms of Broin's settlement, the plaintiff was not required to prove all the elements of her individual claim. Strict Liability, Negligence and Breach of Implied Warranty each rely on proof of the generic causation of disease by secondhand smoke. The court also ruled that the defendants were jointly and severally responsible for the flight attendant's injuries.
The Florida Supreme Court denied the defendants' petition for review on November 29, 2005. The defendants satisfied judgment on December 6, 2005.