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|ALTRIA GROUP, INC. filed this Form 8-K on 02/01/2018|
Altria Group, Inc. and Subsidiaries
Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements
Smoking and Health Litigation
▪Overview: Plaintiffs’ allegations of liability in smoking and health cases are based on various theories of recovery, including negligence, gross negligence, strict liability, fraud, misrepresentation, design defect, failure to warn, nuisance, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of special duty, conspiracy, concert of action, violations of deceptive trade practice laws and consumer protection statutes, and claims under the federal and state anti-racketeering statutes. Plaintiffs in the smoking and health cases seek various forms of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, treble/multiple damages and other statutory damages and penalties, creation of medical monitoring and smoking cessation funds, disgorgement of profits, and injunctive and equitable relief. Defenses raised in these cases include lack of proximate cause, assumption of the risk, comparative fault and/or contributory negligence, statutes of limitations and preemption by the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act.
▪Non-Engle Progeny Litigation: Summarized below are the non-Engle progeny smoking and health cases pending during 2017 in which a verdict was returned in favor of plaintiff and against PM USA. Charts listing certain verdicts for plaintiffs in the Engle progeny cases can be found in Smoking and Health Litigation - Engle Progeny Trial Results below.
Gentile: In October 2017, a jury in a Florida state court returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, awarding approximately $7.1 million in compensatory damages and allocating 75% of the fault to PM USA (an amount of approximately $5.3 million). Subsequently, in October 2017, PM USA filed various post-trial motions.
Bullock: In December 2015, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, awarding $900,000 in compensatory damages. In January 2016, the plaintiff moved for a new trial, which the district court denied in February 2016. In March 2016, PM USA filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and plaintiff cross-appealed. In December 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment. In the fourth quarter of 2017, PM USA recorded a provision on its consolidated balance sheet of approximately $1 million for the judgment plus interest and associated costs.
Federal Government’s Lawsuit: See Health Care Cost Recovery Litigation - Federal Government’s Lawsuit below for a discussion of the verdict and post-trial developments in the United States of America health care cost recovery case.
▪Engle Class Action: In July 2000, in the second phase of the Engle smoking and health class action in Florida, a jury returned a verdict assessing punitive damages totaling approximately $145 billion against various defendants, including $74 billion against PM USA. Following entry of judgment, PM USA appealed.
In May 2001, the trial court approved a stipulation providing that execution of the punitive damages component of the Engle judgment will remain stayed against PM USA and the other participating defendants through the completion of all judicial review. As a result of the stipulation, PM USA placed $500 million into an interest-bearing escrow account that, regardless of the outcome of the judicial review, was to be paid to the court and the court was to determine how to allocate or distribute it consistent with Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. In May 2003, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal reversed the judgment entered by the trial court and instructed the trial court to order the decertification of the class. Plaintiffs petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for further review.
In July 2006, the Florida Supreme Court ordered that the punitive damages award be vacated, that the class approved by the trial court be decertified and that members of the decertified class could file individual actions against defendants within one year of issuance of the mandate. The court further declared the following Phase I findings are entitled to res judicata effect in such individual actions brought within one year of the issuance of the mandate: (i) that smoking causes various diseases; (ii) that nicotine in cigarettes is addictive; (iii) that defendants’ cigarettes were defective and unreasonably dangerous; (iv) that defendants concealed or omitted material information not otherwise known or available knowing that the material was false or misleading or failed to disclose a material fact concerning the health effects or addictive nature of smoking; (v) that defendants agreed to misrepresent information regarding the health effects or addictive nature of cigarettes with the intention of causing the public to rely on this information to their detriment; (vi) that defendants agreed to conceal or omit information regarding the health effects of cigarettes or their addictive nature with the intention that smokers would rely on the information to their detriment; (vii) that all defendants sold or supplied cigarettes that were defective; and (viii) that defendants were negligent. The court also reinstated compensatory damages awards totaling approximately $6.9 million to two individual plaintiffs and found that a third plaintiff’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. In February 2008, PM USA paid approximately $3 million, representing its share of compensatory damages and interest, to the two individual plaintiffs identified in the Florida Supreme Court’s order.
In August 2006, PM USA sought rehearing from the Florida Supreme Court on parts of its July 2006 opinion, including the ruling (described above) that certain jury findings have res judicata effect in subsequent individual trials timely brought by Engle class members. The rehearing motion also asked, among other things, that legal errors that were raised but not expressly ruled upon in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal or in the Florida Supreme Court now be addressed. Plaintiffs also filed a motion for rehearing in August 2006 seeking clarification of the applicability of the statute of limitations to non-members of the decertified class. In December 2006, the Florida Supreme Court refused to revise its July 2006 ruling, except that it revised the set of Phase I findings entitled to res judicata effect by excluding finding (v) listed above (relating to agreement to misrepresent