Philip Morris Liable: Jury Awards Disabled Woman $17.2 Million in Damages


MT. PLEASANT, SC – A Florida federal jury found that Philip Morris USA is liable to Florida resident Donna Brown and awarded her $17.2 million in compensatory and punitive damages in the first federal court Engle-progeny cigarette trial of 2015. Ms. Brown began smoking cigarettes as a minor, became addicted, and now suffers from a painful disease that cost her the loss of her legs.

Motley Rice LLC, the law firm behind the landmark Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, represented the plaintiff, together with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and The Wilner Firm, P.A.

Ms. Brown began smoking Marlboro cigarettes around 16-years-old and subsequently developed an addiction to nicotine. As a result of this addiction, she has experienced life-altering health issues. Following her diagnosis of peripheral vascular disease (PVD) in 1992—a disease that typically causes a narrowing of the large arteries and blood restriction, most commonly in the lower extremities—Ms. Brown has endured more than two dozen surgeries, including surgeries to remove both of her legs in 2003. She has also suffered multiple strokes. 

Ms. Brown hasn’t allowed these obstacles to stand in her way, however. In 1972 she was one of the first women in the southeast to work as an electronics technician for a telephone company and maintained that job until late 2004. Though the loss of both of her limbs was life altering, she continued for some time to find ways to enjoy some of her favorite hobbies, including golfing and fishing.

"The jury's decision was just and fair, and a recognition that every person has the right not to be hurt by the careless, reckless or intentional acts of another,” said Motley Rice attorney Nathan D. Finch. “The jury recognized that Ms. Brown was hurt very badly by Philip Morris’ decisions over many years to repeatedly put its own profits over people's health, decisions which unfortunately harmed a whole generation of Americans. Philip Morris and other tobacco companies now have to face the realities of their actions and answer to hundreds of people like Ms. Brown who they intentionally tried to get addicted.” 

Ms. Brown’s case is one of the thousands of suits filed against tobacco companies following the 2006 landmark ruling of Engle v. Ligget Group Inc.

Motley Rice tobacco attorneys Nathan D. Finch, James W. Ledlie, Robert T. Haefele and Lisa M. Saltzburg were trial counsel for the plaintiff. The case is Donna Brown v. Philip Morris USA et al, United States District Court Middle District of Florida Jacksonville Division, No. 3:09-CV-10687-WGY-HTS.