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Florida Supreme Court resolves circuit conflict, rules that Florida's comparative fault statute does not apply to Engle progeny tobacco cases involving intentional torts

On December 14, 2017, in Schoeff v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. SC15-2233, the Florida Supreme Court resolved a circuit conflict between the First and Fourth DCAs, ruling that Florida’s comparative fault statute, Section 768.81, does not apply to Engle progeny tobacco cases involving intentional torts. The Florida Supreme Court quashed the Fourth DCA’s decision in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Schoeff, 178 So. 3d 487 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015), and approved the First District’s decision in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Sury, 118 So. 3d 849 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), to the extent that it did not reduce compensatory damages under the comparative fault statute. In so finding, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that the 2011 version of the comparative negligence statute applied to the Engleprogeny cases because the Florida legislature expressly made the statute retroactive, and that version of the statute expressly exempts actions based on an intentional tort. The Court concluded that if the comparative fault statute is applied to an Engle progeny case in which the jury finds for the plaintiff on both negligence and intentional tort claims, any reduction is necessarily applied to damages from “action[s] based upon an intentional tort” in derogation of the intentional tort exception.

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