Florida court of appeals overturns 2009 Engle verdict against Philip Morris USA after finding trial court erroneously refused to hold that the statute of limitations barred a plaintiff's claim; first Engle verdict to be overturned by appellate court

RICHMOND, Virginia , February 22, 2012 (press release) – A Florida appellate court today threw out an Engle verdict against Philip Morris USA (PM USA) after finding that the trial court erroneously refused to hold that the statute of limitations barred a plaintiff’s claim. This is the first Engle verdict to be overturned by an appellate court.

Today’s decision came in an appeal of a 2009 verdict in the Barbanell case from Broward County where the court awarded damages in the amount of $5,339,198, but held the plaintiff 63.5% responsible so the total damages against PM USA was approximately $2 million.

“This is an important decision that could impact many of the claims being brought in the Engle cases in Florida,” said Murray Garnick, Altria Client Services senior vice president and associate general counsel, speaking on behalf of PM USA. “Importantly, the court reaffirmed that the four-year statute of limitations begins to run on a plaintiff’s claim when the plaintiff knew or should have known that he or she has suffered an injury caused by smoking.”

“We believe this ruling will bar other Engle progeny claims,” added Garnick.

In its decision, the Fourth District Court of Appeals cautioned trial courts that “the statute of limitations begins to run when the smoker knew or should have known she was injured from smoking cigarettes.” The court added, “separate statute of limitations periods should not exist for separate injuries.”

This case is Barbanell v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., case number 4D09-3987.

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