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Florida Fourth DCA rules in Engle progeny tobacco case that trial court erred in denying plaintiff's motion to amend complaint to seek punitive damages on non-intentional tort claims

On January 10, 2018, in Phillip Morris USA v. Blackwood, No. 4D16-897, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a trial court’s ruling in an Engle progeny tobacco case denying the plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint to seek punitive damages on the complaint’s negligence and strict liability counts. The trial court had based its ruling on Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 106 So. 3d 456, 459-61 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012), and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Ciccone, 123 So. 3d 604, 616 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013), which held that Engle progeny plaintiffs are bound by the procedural posture of Engle and thus are not entitled to seek punitive damages on those counts. After the trial court’s determination, however, the Florida Supreme Court quashed those decisions and determined that Engle plaintiffs “are permitted to seek punitive damages on their claims for negligence and strict liability.” Soffer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 187 So. 3d 1219, 1227 (Fla. 2016) (quoting Philip Morris USA, Inc. v. Hallgren, 124 So. 3d 350, 354 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013)).

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