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Florida Third DCA rules that Engle tobacco class definition of "all Florida citizens and residents" must be read disjunctively to require Florida citizenship or residence within timeframe established by Engle

On September 12, 2018, in Chacon v. Phillip Morris, NHo. 3D16-2330, the Florida Third DCA considered an issue of first impression for the Engle line of tobacco cases, namely, what is the proper interpretation of the phrase “all Florida citizens and residents” as used in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Engle, 672 So. 2d 39, 40 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) to initially define the members of the Engle class. The trial court in Chacon instructed the jury that for the plaintiff to qualify as an Engle class member, she was required to prove that her deceased husband (the smoker) had been both a citizen and a resident of Florida at the time of his lung cancer diagnosis or when it first manifested. The plaintiff argued on appeal that the Engle requirement should have been read in the disjunctive and the jury should have been instructed that the decedent must have been either a citizen or a resident of Florida. After examining both the use of legal language and the Engle progeny cases, the Third DCA concluded the trial court erred in requiring proof of both citizenship and residency. The Third DCA cited an academic monograph for the proposition that in most cases involving enumerated series, the conjunction “and” is used in the several rather than the joint sense, and another article, coauthored by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for the proposition that in legal phrases involving series qualifiers, such as “all Florida citizen and residents”, the word “all” should be read to apply both to Florida citizens and residents, as in “all Florida citizens” and “all Florida residents.” The case was remanded for a new trial.

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