Over the past three years, Central Florida’s court system has been a hotbed for national attention. This time though, the attention isn’t turning a negative light on the community, but rather trying to right a wrong. Right now in a Hernando County courthouse, the trial of Mr. John Rizzuto’s against Phillip Morris and Liggett Group is taking place.
Mr. Rizzuto is 69 years old and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD.) His claim: he’s been addicted to cigarettes since he was 13 years old! Mr. Rizzuto took the stand to tell the jury why he’s filed this lawsuit against Big Tobacco. “It was a common thing to see on TV no matter what type of program was on. Could be a talk show, could be in the movies. […] My mother and father both smoked. My brother smoked and most of my uncles and aunts they all smoked.”
Big Tobacco is defending on the claim that Mr. Rizzuto knew of the risks of smoking, saw the warning label, and he could have quit. Big Tobacco is set to begin presenting their case sometime today and closing arguments should be presented either this week or the next.
Many may be asking if this is the second coming of Big Tobacco litigation in the United States. This case actually stems from a 1994 class-action suit in Miami known as the Engle class. In 2000, the plaintiff’s in Engle were granted $145 billion verdict, which was ultimately overturned on appeal. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court refused to reinstate the verdict, but did allow individual plaintiffs to file lawsuits – leading to Mr. Rizzuto’s claim. This is the first case stemming from the Engle decision and could be the benchmark for other claims in Florida against Big Tobacco.
Check back with us after the jury renders a verdict for more analysis of the claims and decision in the Big Tobacco case. If you or a loved one has suffered from COPD, which you think might be related to years of cigarette smoking, please give us a call to discuss.
Wooten Kimbrough, P.A.