Philip Morris Must Pay $5M to Florida Smoker

     (CN) – A Florida appeals court upheld a $5 million jury verdict against cigarette maker Philip Morris in a case brought by a Miami man who said the company’s products caused his coronary heart disease.
     Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal upheld a Miami-Dade jury’s findings that Antonio Cuculino’s coronary heart disease was caused, at least in part, by smoking cigarettes.
     The jury initially awarded Cuculino $12.5 million, but then on to ascribe 60 percent of the blame for heart disease on the plaintiff, and 40 percent on Philip Morris, bringing down the ex-smoker’s compensation award to $5 million.
     The trial court previously ruled Cuculino could not seek punitive damages for his claims of negligence and strict liability.
     Philip Morris appealed 2014 decision, claiming Cuculino’s counsel made “highly prejudicial and inflammatory” comments during closing arguments.
     Cuculino’s counsel asserted the ex-smoker deserved to get paid for the “job” of “suffering from progressive heart disease.” They later stated, “You know, what is it that’s going to be a just and appropriate figure? Who in their right mind would want to trade places with Mr. Cuculino and take this job?”
     Though Appeals Judge Leslie Rothenberg conceded the statements were “improper,” she ruled the comments did not preclude the cigarette maker from a fair trial.
     Cuculino filed his complaint against Philip Morris in 2013 after years of battling heart disease. According to the ruling, he suffered a heart attack at the age of 49, underwent an angioplasty the next year and later underwent a quadruple bypass surgery. In 2013, Cuculino had three stents placed in his arteries.
     Cuculino is one of the latest individuals using the Florida Supreme Court’s Engle class action decision to singularly go after tobacco companies for smoking-related diseases.

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