The jury deliberated for less than an hour in Espinosa v. Philip Morris before returning a verdict in favor of the defense.
The jury agreed with the plaintiff that Ms. Espinosa was addicted to tobacco, and that her addiction was the legal cause of her smoking-related cancer, and that the cancer manifested early enough for Ms. Espinosa to be a member of the Engle class.
However, the jury found Ms. Espinosa’s death was not caused by Philip Morris’ negligence or by the defective nature of the cigarettes, and that she did not reasonably rely on any deceptive statement or act by Philip Morris.
Espinosa represents Tobacco’s eighth consecutive win. Since August, juries have turned in defense verdicts (zero damages awarded) in Vasko, Budnick, Warrick, Willis, Frazier, Campbell, and Rohr. A deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial in Koballa.
The victory represented a small winning streak for Engle-veteran Kenneth Reilly, of Shook Hardy Bacon’s Miami office. Mr. Reilly tried not only this latest Engle trial, but also the very first Engle trial, back in February 2009 — Hess v. R.J. Reynolds — and also several cases in between, including Kalyvas and Warrick. Mr. Reilly is responsible for two of eight recent wins.
During the plaintiffs’ 16-trial winning streak that started in April 2009 and ended in June 2010 (see CVN Engle Verdict Tracker), Engle trials were considered very difficult for the defense. However, with eight wins in a row (plus a hung jury), Tobacco can now confidently claim to have cracked the Engle Code.