Connect with us

Florida

Tobacco giants pay $100m to settle smoking lawsuits in Florida

Published

on

10700236_708103362615882_4761042856411405017_o

JACKSONVILLE — A $100 million settlement has been reached between three major tobacco companies and hundreds of people who sued them for smoking-related deaths and illnesses in Florida federal court.

The tentative agreement announced Wednesday involves R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. The deal resolves about 400 cases pending before a federal judge in Jacksonville, Florida, but does not affect thousands of other lawsuits pending in Florida state courts.

“With respect to the cases pending in state court, we will continue to defend them vigorously, which includes appealing adverse verdicts,” said Jeff Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R.J. Reynolds, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The lawsuits stemmed from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision, known as Engle v. Liggett Group, which threw out a $145 billion class-action verdict against cigarette makers.

That decision let stand findings that the companies knowingly sold dangerous products and hid smoking hazards, meaning future juries could consider that as proven fact. But the ruling also required smokers and their families to pursue individual wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits based on cigarette use.

The settlement Wednesday, which requires final approval from a federal judge, would end the federal cases that would have taken years had they gone to trial.

“Whenever people are suffering, we always welcome serious, fair offers that may more quickly resolve their claims and help them move on with their lives as best they can,” said Joe Rice, co-founder of the South Carolina-based Motley Rice law firm and a chief negotiator for the plaintiffs.

Under the deal, R.J. Reynolds and Richmond, Virginia-based Philip Morris would each pay $42.5 million and Lorillard, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, would contribute $15 million. Each individual plaintiff who agrees to the settlement can share in the funds, but any that do not may negotiate further. The goal, Rice said, is for full participation.

“We’ve committed to try to get 100 percent of the cases resolved, and if we don’t we’ll go back to the table,” he said.

The settlement does not affect those federal cases that have already been tried or are on appeal. It will use a model formula based on past trials and rulings to determine how much money each plaintiff could receive, subject to approval by U.S. District Judge William G. Young.

Still, the companies and plaintiff lawyers were optimistic the federal lawsuits are near an end.

“We are pleased to have these federal Engle cases behind us,” said Ronald Milstein, Lorillard’s executive vice president and general counsel.

“This settlement will provide immediate compensation to our clients, many of whom are very elderly,” said attorney Robert J. Nelson of the San Francisco-based Lief Cabraser law firm.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Proposed Legislation on Teacher’s Bill of Rights

Published

on

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced an unprecedented legislative proposal to create a Teacher’s Bill of Rights that empowers educators to be leaders in their classrooms, enact paycheck protection, reduce terms for school board members from twelve to eight years, and invest another $1 billion in teacher pay. For more information, click here.
“This is a huge package to increase teacher pay, support teacher empowerment and protect teachers’ paychecks by ensuring they have control over their hard-earned salary,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We want more transparency into how school unions operate, and we are going to fight against school union haggling that holds teachers and their salary increases hostage. Partisan groups should not be given special privileges.”
“From day one, Governor Ron DeSantis has made it his mission to raise teacher pay and elevate educators in the classroom — and he has succeeded,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “Today’s announcement goes another step further to provide historic funding for teachers’ salaries and ensure they have control over their classrooms and paychecks.”
Paycheck Protection
The Governor’s proposal will create more accountability and transparency for public sector unions, including K-12 teacher unions and higher education unions. This proposal will require school unions to represent at least 60% of employees eligible for representation, an increase over the current 50% threshold, and allow state investigations into unions suspected of fraud, waste and abuse. Additionally, the proposal will require annual audits and financial disclosures for unions.
To further ensure that school boards are acting in the best interests of Florida’s teachers and students, this proposal reduces term limits for school board members from 12 years to 8 years and seeks to make school board elections a partisan election. A joint resolution for the 2023 Legislative Session has already been filed by Senator Gruters and Representative Roach to begin this process.
Other paycheck protections that would be enacted under this proposal include:
  • Prohibit any union representing public employees from having its dues and assessments deducted by the public employee’s employer.
  • Require employees to submit a form acknowledging that Florida is a right to work state and union participation is optional.
  • Require school unions to annually notify members of the cost of membership.
  • Prohibit the distribution of union materials at the workplace.
  • Union officials cannot be paid more than the highest paid union member.
  • Prohibit union work while on the clock for their taxpayer funded job.
  • Prohibit school board members and superintendents from accepting a personal or work-related benefit such as a secret “office account” from a school union.
Teacher Empowerment
Since the Governor took office, education has been at the forefront of policy making decisions. Florida law currently contains comprehensive legislation related to students’ rights and parents’ rights in education but does not have a clear compilation of teachers’ rights and authorities. This proposal will establish teacher empowerment provisions in law and will include these main provisions:
  • Establish a new process for individuals to notify the state of a violation of teachers’ rights and ensure that the Department of Education can investigate those claims.
  • Empower teachers to maintain safe classroom environments by creating a “stand your ground” classroom safety policy to protect teachers who are often judged unfairly for maintaining order and safety in their classrooms.
  • Clarify that teachers have the choice to join their local teachers union and will not face any repercussions if they opt not to join.
  • Providing civil remedies for teachers who are asked to violate Florida law and punished by their employers for standing up for what is right.
Raising Teacher Pay
Since 2020, the Governor has secured more than $2 billion in funding for teacher pay, the largest pay increase for teachers in Florida history. This funding has allowed Florida to achieve an average starting teacher salary of $48,000 for the 2022-2023 school year, meeting and exceeding Florida’s goal of an average starting teacher salary of $47,500. The Governor is proposing an additional $200 million to continue raising teacher pay, bringing the total to $1 billion for teacher pay in his recommended budget for the next year.
This $200 million increase over the current year’s budget will be provided to school districts with maximum flexibility to best fit the school district’s needs. School districts will be able to apply the funding to continue raising starting teacher salaries or to provide salary increases for veteran teachers and other eligible instructional personnel.
No eligible full-time classroom teacher will receive a base salary less than the minimum base salary established during the 2022-2023 school year.

Continue Reading

Florida

Former State Representative Daisy Morales statement about the mass shooting in Monterey Park, California

Published

on

State Rep. Daisy Morales. Photo: Florida House of Representatives.

ORLANDO, Fla. (January 22, 2023) – Former State Representative Daisy Morales, the 2022 sponsor of the Active Shooter Alert System legislation (HB 1271), issued the following statement about the mass shooting in Monterey Park, California that left 10 dead and 10 wounded.

Former Florida State Representative Daisy Morales’ statement:

“I am horrified and deeply saddened to learn about the attack in Monterey Park following the 2023 Lunar New Year festival. I condemn this terrible and senseless act of violence against the Asian American community.

“America is becoming a country where human life doesn’t matter to some lawmakers over senseless gun violence. Lawmakers have a constitutional duty to build a safer future for all Americans and my Active Shooter Alert System legislation will do that.

“I look forward to working with state law enforcement officials, the Florida Sheriffs Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and state lawmakers to reintroduce this lifesaving piece of legislation during the 2023 Legislative Session.”

Continue Reading

Florida

Florida high court OKs grand jury probe of COVID-19 vaccines

Published

on

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks on Nov. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. Gov. DeSantis said Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022 that he plans to petition the state's Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing” with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida Supreme Court will convene a grand jury at Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to investigate any wrongdoing with respect to the COVID-19 vaccines, the court announced Thursday.

The Republican governor, who is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, earlier this month called for the investigation. He suggested it would be in part aimed to jog loose more information from pharmaceutical companies about the vaccines and potential side effects.

Vaccine studies funded by pharmaceutical companies that developed COVID-19 vaccines have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, and government panels reviewed data on the safety and effectiveness of the shots before approving them for use.

DeSantis’ request argues that pharmaceutical companies had a financial interest in creating a climate in which people believed that getting a coronavirus vaccine would ensure they couldn’t spread the virus to others.

Statewide grand juries, usually comprised of 18 people, can investigate criminal activity and issue indictments but also examine systemic problems in Florida and make recommendations. Recent panels have tackled immigration issues and school safety.

The grand jury will meet for one year.

Continue Reading

Trending