Latest News

Woman files lawsuit against big tobacco

MANATEE -- A woman is suing some of the nation’s largest tobacco companies in Manatee County Circuit Court for monetary damages after she developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after smoking, according to a lawsuit filed this month.

Rebecca A. Ireland is suing several tobacco companies, including Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Ireland’s case is one of two pending lawsuits against tobacco companies in Manatee County.

In July, the widow and children of Wayne Sellars filed a lawsuit seeking damages, claiming Sellars died from diseases caused by years of smoking -- including lung cancer.

The lawsuits, known as “Engle progeny,” make up about 8,000 statewide and were filed against tobacco companies in Florida after a 2006 Supreme Court ruling.

Howard Engle, a Miami doctor and smoker, went forward with a class action lawsuit that represented approximately 700,000 ill or deceased smokers in Florida in which a total of $145 billion in punitive damages was awarded.

The appeals court overturned the decision, stating the award amount was excessive, but has since allowed individuals to file lawsuits against tobacco companies.

In July, a federal appeals court issued a ruling that smokers seeking damages from tobacco companies are limited in referencing the Engle case to meet the burden of proof during trial.

They have to make a compelling argument that all of the company’s cigarettes were dangerous. Last month, Jimmie P. Willis -- who has a quarter-size hole in his throat and suffers from laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- lost his case.

After a nearly month-long trial, a jury ruled the companies were not responsible for his illnesses after he smoked for 37 years.