Cigarette Makers Hammered in $37 Million Judgement Day

Schlesinger Law Offices PA

Cigarette Makers Hammered in $37 Million Judgement Day

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 12:50 PM

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL / ACCESSWIRE / March 6, 2019 / A Broward County, Florida, jury this week awarded $12 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA Inc., for the wrongful death of Rita Mahfuz. Mrs. Mahfuz died as a result of lung cancer and COPD caused by an addiction to the cigarettes manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA Inc. The case was tried by the Schlesinger Law Firm on behalf of the Estate of Rita Mahfuz.

"Rita fell into the tobacco industry's trap. She was addicted as a child and became hooked on the nicotine in cigarettes" said Steven J. Hammer, who along with attorneys Jonathan Gdanski and Brittany Chambers, represented widower Richard Mahfuz and the estate of Rita Mahfuz. "This jury saw through tobacco companies' defenses of placing blame on the victim and placed it where it belongs - on the manufacturer."

Rita Mahfuz was born on September 3, 1946. By the time she started dating her future husband, Richard, in 1959, Rita already was a regular smoker. The couple married four years later. Over the next three decades, Ms. Mahfuz smoked a pack a day - whether R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand cigarettes, or Philip Morris' Benson & Hedges or Virginia Slims brand cigarettes.

She tried to quit several times. She went through hypnosis, chewing gum, plastic cigarettes, even going cold turkey. Nothing worked. She ultimately quit when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 1992. Doctors removed her right lung and she died in 1999. She was 53 and left behind her husband of 36 years and two children.

Mr. Mahfuz's attorneys at trial argued that Ms. Mahfuz started smoking as an adolescent and was deceived by the aggressive advertising campaigns of the tobacco industry. In particular, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds pitched filtered and "light" brands as "safer" alternatives and smoked those brands for decades believing them to be what the industry said they were, a better option.

"She was a success story to the tobacco industry. They were happy to profit from her while she was alive but argued their products were not responsible for her addiction or death" Gdanski said. "Despite the overwhelming medical evidence, defendants argued unsuccessfully that it couldn't be proven that she had lung cancer or COPD, or that either of those diseases were caused by smoking or that neither of them caused her death," said Brittany Chambers who handled the medical and addiction issues at trial.

Ultimately, jurors found R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris USA 90% at fault for Ms. Mahfuz's cancer and COPD. They also found that Ms. Mahfuz "reasonably relied to her detriment" on the cigarette makers' statements concealing the known harmful and addictive effects of cigarette smoking.

Jurors assessed $15 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and $10 million against Philip Morris U.S.A.

The Mahfuz case is one of thousands of similar "Engle progeny" cases stemming from the Florida Supreme Court overturning a $145 billion verdict against the companies. The court also ruled plaintiffs - numbering close to 700,000 - could use findings from that case to file future lawsuits against tobacco companies.

Schlesinger Law Firm is lead counsel in the national multi-district litigation against Reynolds Natural American Spirit cigarette, which is pending in the federal district court in New Mexico. The lawsuit was brought under the False and Deceptive Unfair Trade Practices Act. Now, other firms and plaintiffs around the country have joined to stop the spread of "organic natural" cigarettes.


Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Schlesinger Law Offices is a personal injury law firm dedicated to holding corporations, manufacturers and medical providers accountable for harm caused to members of the public by acts of negligence and misconduct. The firm has a reputation for powerful advocacy and has obtained justice and compensation for hundreds of clients. For more information, log on to or call (954) 866-5493.

Media Contact: Lauren Berger, BoardroomPR, [email protected] 954 370 8999

SOURCE: Schlesinger Law Offices PA