Three major US tobacco companies, Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard, have collectively agreed to pay $100 million to settle over 400 lawsuits filed in Florida by smokers or their families, seeking damages for injuries caused by smoking. Altria unit Philip Morris USA, the largest US tobacco company, and RJ Reynolds, the second-largest, will each pay $42.5 million to resolve the federal cases, while Lorillard will pay $15 million.
Attorney Robert Nelson, of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who helped negotiate the deal, said, "We are very pleased that after many years of litigation, the parties were able to reach agreement. This settlement will provide immediate compensation to our clients, many of whom are very elderly."
The settlement involves cases that are pending in federal court, and not cases filed in state court. The settled cases are part of the 'Engle cases', a Florida class-action lawsuit filed against the cigarette companies in 1994. This tentative agreement is subject to the approval of all the plaintiffs.
Murray Garnick, senior vice president and associate general counsel at Altria, said, "Today's agreement is in the best interest of the company. As for the Engle progeny cases in state court, we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously, including appealing adverse verdicts."