|Jump to full article: Law360, 2011-09-28|
Author: Roxanne Palmer
A Florida appeals court on Wednesday reinstated conspiracy claims against cigarette makers Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group LLC and Vector Group Ltd., saying the Florida Supreme Court did not impose brand usage conditions on such claims as the defendants argued.
The companies had argued that because they did not manufacture the cigarettes smoked by the late Fernando Rey, they could not be held liable by his family for a conspiracy to withhold information about the addictiveness of cigarettes as well as associated health risks.
But the Florida Third District Court of Appeal said the state Supreme Court's ruling in Engle v. Liggett — a class action that the underlying case is derived from — imposed no such restriction on civil conspiracy and concealment claims.
“Were we to hold otherwise, arguably culpable nonmanufacturer defendants also could not be held liable for tobacco-related injuries — defendants such as the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute — for failure to satisfy the purported 'brand usage' requirement,” Judge Vance E. Salter wrote for a three-judge panel for the Third District. . . .
The findings in Engle establish there was an agreement among all the Engle defendants, including the three companies named in the current suit, to conceal or omit material information, according to Judge Salter.
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