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The News Service Of Florida

TOBACCO BOND CASE DISMISSED

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a constitutional challenge to a law that allows tobacco companies to post lower-than-usual bonds when appealing verdicts in cases that involve smoking-related illnesses. Justices had been scheduled to hear arguments next Friday in the case, which stemmed from a $15.75 million judgment against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the death of former smoker Arthur Hall. But R.J. Reynolds argued that the bond challenge is moot because it paid the judgment to Hall’s widow, after exhausting appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Hall lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds was one of thousands resulting from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision establishing critical findings that could be used against the industry — such as establishing that cigarettes cause a wide range of diseases, that nicotine in cigarettes is addictive and that tobacco companies concealed information about the health effects of smoking. In legal circles, the lawsuits against the tobacco companies are called the “Engle progeny” cases. Lawmakers later agreed to allow tobacco companies to post reduced bonds when appealing verdicts, a move that saves money for the companies. Supporters of the idea contended it was important to offer financial protections to the companies because of a 1997 legal settlement that calls for the industry to funnel billions of dollars to the state for health and other programs. But attorneys for Hall argued that it was unconstitutional to single out tobacco companies for such a financial break.

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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