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Florida First DCA rules that plaintiff’s alleged prior history of drug abuse was irrelevant and more prejudicial than probative in product liability case involving exploding e-cigarette

On July 9, 2019, in R-L Sales, LLC v. Hoce, No. 1D18-2298, the Florida First DCA affirmed a jury verdict for the plaintiff in a product liability case against an e-cigarette manufacturer.  The plaintiff filed his lawsuit after an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth and damaged several of his teeth. At trial, the defendant sought to introduce evidence that the plaintiff was a meth user to show that his need for extensive restorative dental work was largely attributable to the corrosive effects of meth on his teeth and not the e-cigarette explosion.  Regarding the cause of the plaintiff’s preexisting dental problems, the First DCA opined that “whether it was meth use, too many sugary drinks, or simply extremely poor dental hygiene—[the cause] was not relevant to any issue the jury had to decide.”  The Court additionally concluded that even if the specific cause of the preexisting problems had some “marginal relevance,” the probative value of the alleged fact that the plaintiff was a meth user was substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect, citing Shaw v. Jain, 914 So. 2d 458 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005) and Nichols v. Benton, 718 So. 2d 925 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998).

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