Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
May 21, 2024

Examining Landmark Legal Battles Against Big Tobacco

Legal battles against Big Tobacco have been some of the most significant and hard-fought in United States history, representing a landmark shift in the way the tobacco industry is held accountable for its impact on the health of millions of Americans who have not only used the products but been exposed via second-hand smoke. 

For decades, tobacco companies were considered untouchable in court due to their formidable legal defenses, extensive resources, and overwhelming public campaigns that influenced perceptions. 

The tobacco industry effectively argued that there was no definitive proof showing that smoking led to adverse health effects. In addition, tobacco companies pointed out the freedom of choice made by individuals who chose to smoke despite the potential risks. The effective strategy was used alongside aggressive lobbying and marketing tactics to ensure that tobacco companies avoided liability.

Kelley | Uustal has played an impressive role in several landmark tobacco legal cases, setting precedents and securing substantial verdicts for their clients. Their success is built on careful and precise preparation, innovative legal strategies, and an unwavering commitment to justice.

History of Tobacco Legal Cases

In the 1990s, the tide started to change and legal strategies began to breach tobacco companies’ defenses. A bevy of whistleblowers and leaked documents were revealed that showed the tobacco industry was aware of adverse health effects caused by their products.  

Not only were companies aware, but they manipulated the nicotine levels to ensure continued addiction to their products. 

The evidence that came to light fueled an impressive wave of litigation. Individual lawsuits were launched, which culminated in massive payouts. One example is the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, in which four major tobacco companies agreed to pay states $206 billion over 25 years.

The groundbreaking work of legal teams and the support of medical and scientific communities provided evidence and momentum to challenge Big Tobacco effectively. 

The combination of legal strategy, public support, and damning evidence ultimately led to significant legal victories against the tobacco industry. Big Tobacco was faced with a turning point, which was made to answer to corporate accountability and public health advocacy.

For attorneys, understanding tobacco legal cases is not just a matter of historical interest but a source of valuable insights and strategies for tackling seemingly unwinnable cases. 

Kelley | Uustal has been at the forefront of several key victories against tobacco companies. They have shown the impressive power of determined legal action against formidable adversaries.

Kelley | Uustal’s Pivotal Cases Against Big Tobacco

An Unlikely Win in a Rare Florida Tobacco Case

Kelley | Uustal secured an impressive victory in a Florida tobacco case that many believed was impossible. 

The firm represented a widow in a lawsuit against Philip Morris, one of the largest tobacco companies in the United States. The case hinged on the argument that the company was responsible for the death of her husband due to lung cancer caused by smoking. 

Despite the formidable defense mounted by Philip Morris, Kelley | Uustal’s thorough investigation and compelling presentation of evidence led to a favorable verdict for their client. 

This case highlighted the importance of having a determined and expert legal team to handle all aspects of complex tobacco litigation effectively.

A $28.795 Million Verdict Against Big Tobacco 

Another significant triumph was the $28.795 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. This case involved the wrongful death of a man who had been a lifelong smoker. 

Kelley | Uustal demonstrated that R.J. Reynolds had engaged in deceptive practices, deliberately downplaying the risks of smoking and manipulating nicotine levels to keep users addicted. 

The jury’s substantial award underscored the tobacco company’s liability and the effectiveness of Kelley | Uustal’s legal strategy.

$300 Million Verdict Against Philip Morris

One of the most striking examples of Kelley | Uustal’s crack legal skills in tobacco litigation is their $300 million verdict against Philip Morris. The landmark case involved a smoker who developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after years of smoking Philip Morris cigarettes. 

In the case, the jury awarded $300 million in punitive damages, reflecting the egregious nature of the tobacco company’s conduct and the significant harm caused to the plaintiff. 

The case not only provided justice for the victim but also sent a strong message to the tobacco industry about the consequences of their actions.

Other Landmark Tobacco Cases

While Kelley | Uustal’s cases are exemplary and impressive, they are only part of much broader tobacco litigation. 

The DOJ RICO Lawsuit

In 1999, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against several major tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

The lawsuit alleged that the companies had engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to deceive the public about the health risks of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine. 

In 2006, a federal judge ruled against the tobacco companies, ordering them to make corrective statements about the dangers of smoking and their manipulation of nicotine levels. This ruling marked a massive victory in the fight against the Big Tobacco industry. 

The Engle Progeny Cases

The Engle Progeny cases stem from a class-action lawsuit filed in Florida in the 1990s. The original Engle case resulted in a $145 billion verdict against the tobacco companies, which was later overturned. 

The Florida Supreme Court went on to allow individual plaintiffs to file lawsuits using the findings from the Engle case. The decision led to thousands of lawsuits and numerous substantial verdicts against the tobacco industry, demonstrating the impact of the Engle litigation on tobacco companies’ accountability.

The Impact and Future of Tobacco Litigation

The ongoing legal battles against Big Tobacco have profoundly impacted public health and corporate accountability. These cases have secured compensation for victims and forced the industry to change its practices.  

In recent years, with public awareness, smoking has become less prevalent because people are now aware of the natural health dangers. 

The lessons learned from these landmark cases are invaluable for attorneys. They demonstrate the power of detailed preparation, the importance of expert testimony, and the necessity of a relentless pursuit of justice.

Kelley | Uustal’s successes in tobacco litigation are a testament to the firm’s dedication and expertise to their clients. Their victories against formidable opponents like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds highlight the potential to achieve justice in even the most challenging cases. 

For attorneys handling complex cases, partnering with Kelley | Uustal can provide the expertise and resources needed to secure a favorable outcome.

Win Big with Kelley | Uustal

The legal battles against Big Tobacco have reshaped the landscape of corporate accountability and public health. Through landmark cases and significant verdicts, firms like Kelley | Uustal have played an impressive historical role in holding the tobacco industry accountable. 

The above cases against tobacco companies offer valuable insights and strategies for attorneys facing legal challenges. By utilizing the expertise and experience of firms like Kelley | Uustal, attorneys become better equipped to handle even complex tobacco legal cases and secure justice for their clients.

The Daily Business Review has named Kelley | Uustal the Best Personal Injury Firm for three consecutive years. Let us advocate for justice and start your journey towards a fair resolution today.

If you need assistance with your case, contact the Kelley | Uustal team.

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