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Florida Widow Awarded $5 Million in Lawsuit against Tobacco Companies

Plaintiff's late husband was part of landmark class action against tobacco companies

A Florida woman whose husband died from lung cancer was awarded $5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against two tobacco companies by a Duval County Circuit Court jury on March 26.  William Bowden, Jr. was part of the Engle class, a group of Florida smokers who filed a class action lawsuit against the tobacco industry in 1994.  The lawsuit was filed by Gloria Bowden on behalf of her late husband.

William Bowden, Jr. died in December 1994 at the age of 69, just two months after the Engle class action lawsuit was certified in Dade County Circuit Court in Miami.  The class action is named for Dr. Howard Engle, a pediatrician and lifelong smoker who was one of seven plaintiffs.  A Florida jury awarded the plaintiffs $145 billion in July 2000, in the largest punitive damage award in U.S. history, but that verdict was overturned in May 2003.  After decertifying the class, The Florida Supreme Court ruled that each of the class members, known as the “Engle Progeny,” could file individual lawsuits against the tobacco industry and Bowden was one of the Engle Progeny.

Gloria Bowden said her late husband smoked 1 ½ to 2 packs of cigarettes a day, including several brands made by the defendants in her lawsuit, Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds.  Because it had been 20 years since Mr. Bowden died, attorney Rod Smith with the Gainesville firm Avera & Smith said trying the case was challenging.  "This was a very difficult case to try.  It was nearly impossible to reconstruct the sequence of events due to the number of years since Bowden's death," Smith said.  "We believe the jury handed down a fair verdict and we are very pleased.”

Smith added that the lawsuit was "About more than just this one case. This is about the tobacco industry paying back a generation of people for what they did and what they hid."

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