Supreme Court Rejects Tobacco Case

The Supreme Court has decided not to hear the Engle case, in which the Florida Supreme Court threw out a $145 billion class-action punitive damages award against the big tobacco companies, but upheld multimillion-dollar compensatory damage awards to individual smokers.

In its Engle decision, the Florida courts held that Florida’s 1997 settlement did not bar punitive damages claims against the tobacco companies. By contrast, the Georgia Supreme Court and New York federal district judge Charles Brieant have ruled that the 1998 multistate tobacco Master Settlement Agreement bars punitive damage claims by smokers against the tobacco companies.

The Florida court also held that the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act did not bar fraud lawsuits against the tobacco companies over their cigarette labeling and advertising. The tobacco companies unsuccessfully sought to have the U.S. Supreme Court review that decision, since it conflicts with rulings by other courts broadly barring fraud claims over failure to disclose health risks beyond those mandated by federal law.