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R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Enochs

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

August 16, 2017

R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY and PHILIP MORRIS USA, INC., Appellants,
v.
LINDA PURDO ENOCHS, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of THOMAS PURDO, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Meenu Sasser, Judge; L.T. Case No. 50-2007-CA-024173-XXXX-MB.

          Val Leppert, William L. Durham II and Jeffrey S. Bucholtz of King & Spalding LLP, Atlanta, GA, and Washington, DC, for appellant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and Geoffrey J. Michael of Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC, for appellant Philip Morris USA, Inc.

          John S. Mills and Courtney Brewer of The Mills Firm, P.A., Tallahassee, Alex Alvarez of The Alvarez Law Firm, Coral Gables, Gary M. Paige of Gordon & Doner, Davie, and David J. Sales of David J. Sales, P.A., Jupiter, for appellee.

          DAMOORGIAN, J.

         In this Engle[1] progeny case, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA, Inc. ("Defendants") appeal the final judgment entered in favor of Linda Purdo Enochs as Representative of the estate of her deceased husband, Thomas Purdo ("Plaintiff"). Defendants argue that the trial court erred by: (1) failing to engage in the requisite genuineness analysis in granting Plaintiff's peremptory challenges to two prospective jurors; (2) misapplying the Melbourne analysis in granting Plaintiff's peremptory challenges as to two other prospective jurors; (3) allowing Plaintiff to misstate the law on Engle class membership; (4) denying their motion to remit the jury's compensatory awards to the Decedent's two surviving children ($7 million each); and (5) applying the Engle findings in violation of Defendants' due process rights. We affirm on all counts and write only to address the failure to engage in the requite genuineness analysis issue.

         During voir dire, Plaintiff was the first to use a peremptory challenge, striking prospective juror 18, a white male. Defendants objected based on gender and race grounds, prompting the following response:

[PLAINTIFF]: He's a white male. I don't understand what -
[COURT]: Everybody is a protected class under the case law.
[PLAINTIFF]: Okay. Well, he's a smoker, and that's why I'm striking him, he's a smoker.
[COURT]: All right. That's a gender-and-race-neutral reason. I will overrule defense objection.

Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff used a peremptory challenge to strike prospective juror 95, who was also a white male, and Defendants again objected on gender and race grounds, prompting the following response:

[PLAINTIFF]: This is what [prospective juror 95] said when [defense counsel] asked him about the smoking history of his family members, do you think that the tobacco company is responsible, and instead of him saying no, I don't think ...

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