Baker v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, ___ So. 3d ___, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D476 (Fla. 4th DCA February 18, 2015)
The jury found that the decedent was a member of the Engle class but that the defendant’s wrongful acts were not the cause of his death. The plaintiff moved for a new trial based upon the premise that the verdict was internally inconsistent because the finding of Engle class membership established causation. The trial court denied the motion and entered judgment for the defendant, and the appellate court affirmed. The plaintiff submitted an instruction that asked the jury to determine “whether [the decedent] was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine[,] and if so, whether his addiction was a legal cause of his lung cancer and death.” In addition, the “Plaintiff agreed to jury instructions requiring the jury to find ‘for the defendant’ if they made a specific finding that ‘the negligence of the defendant’ or ‘the defective and unreasonably dangerous cigarettes placed on the market by the defendant’ were not ‘a legal cause of [the decedent’s] lung cancer and death.’” Furthermore, the plaintiffs’ proposed verdict form submitted the issue of causation to the jury to determine. Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Douglas, 110 So. 3d 419 (Fla. 2013), which was decided after the trial of the present case, held that “legal causation for the strict liability claim in Engle progeny cases is ‘established by proving that addiction to the Engle defendants’ cigarettes containing nicotine was a legal cause of the injuries alleged.” The plaintiff was not entitled to rely upon Douglas because she either advocated or agreed to the jury instructions and verdict form that submitted the issue of causation for determination by the jury. The court held that “[t]he jury [could not] be faulted for doing exactly what it was instructed to do” and that the “Plaintiff waived any argument that the alleged inconsistency [was] grounds for a new trial.”
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