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Florida Second DCA rules in Engle progeny tobacco case that applicable punitive damages statute relates back to class certified in 1994 Engle class action complaint

On September 15, 2017, in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Evers, No. 2D16-1603, the Florida Second DCA ruled in an Engle progeny tobacco case that that applicable punitive damages statute related back to the class certified in the 1994 Engle class action complaint rather than the date of the decedent’s death in 2007. Quoting from Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 187 So. 3d 1219, 1229-30 (Fla. 2016), the Second DCA explained that this is because "a claim for punitive damages is not a separate, freestanding cause of action," but is instead "actually dependent on the underlying cause of action." The Court found the 1995 version of the punitive damages statute applied notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff had brought an independent wrongful death action rather than amending a personal injury action brought by the decedent.

The Second DCA also rejected the defendant’s argument that interest on the judgment should be calculated form the date of the second amended final judgment rather than the original final judgment. The defendant relied on a Florida Fifth DCA decision, Guy v. Kight, 431 So. 2d 653, 656 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983). The Second DCA found this precedent inapposite because the reversal resulting from the original appeal only extended to the amount of the award. The Second DCA noted that where a party appeals a final judgment and only the amount of the award is modified after the appeal, the accrual date for interest does not change and the interest accrues from the date of the original judgment as modified. See Shoemaker v. Sliger, 187 So. 3d 863, 865-66 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016); St. Cloud Utils. v. Moore, 355 So. 2d 446, 447-48 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978).

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