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A national class action on behalf of sick smokers and the estates of those who died as a result of smoking-caused disease was filed on May 5, 1994 by Miami attorneys Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt. On October 31, 1994, the trial court in Miami certified the nationwide class. The tobacco company defendants appealed the class certification and on January 31, 1996, the Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the class certification but narrowed the class to citizens and residents of Florida (see 672 So. 2d 39). The tobacco company defendants again appealed, this time to the Florida Supreme Court and on October 2, 1996, the state's high court rejected the appeal. The case proceeded to trial with a trial plan calling for three phases: 1) determination of general liability; 2) determination of compensatory damages for a selection of representative class members and, if such liability is found, determination of punitive damages for the whole class; and 3) determination of compensatory damages for all class members on an individual basis. The first phase of the trial began in October of 1998 and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff on July 7, 1999. The jury found that smoking cigarettes could cause 20 diseases or medical conditions, including lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema; that cigarettes are addictive; and that the tobacco companies' conduct rose to the level that would permit the potential award of punitive damages.

Discussing the issues as they apply to the facts of the case depicted in the fact pattern. Analyze the case, and explain how the persons harmed can show the three phases of determination set forth in the case. Include these elements in your analysis:

  • Parties involved
  • Theories of recovery
  • Defenses available
  • Other product liability issues
  • Ethical issues related to product liability

 

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