After a two-week trial, Paul Knopf Bigger partner Brent Bigger won a $19.5 million verdict and prevailed over the nationally-recognized trial team from Jones Day who represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Our clients, Rosemarie Graffeo and Lisa Ann Brown (Graffeo), lost their devoted husband and father, Frank, in 1995 after a lengthy battle with squamous cell lung cancer. This was Mr. Bigger’s eleventh so-called Engle Progeny trial. It arose from the Engle class action, a lawsuit filed in 1994 to recover damages for the thousands of addicted Florida smokers or their survivors resulting from the horrible medical diseases from which these addicted smokers eventually suffered or died.
Frank Graffeo was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. Like nearly 80-percent of the men his age, he began smoking as a teenager and was soon addicted. Like nearly all smokers, the tobacco companies used gimmicks and advertising to migrate him from unfiltered cigarettes to filtered cigarettes and eventually to what the tobacco companies called “health brands,” designed to deliberately mislead concerned smokers that these cigarettes provided some “health protection” or were “safer” somehow. Meanwhile, secret, internal documents from the tobacco industry revealed that these efforts were all simply “false and misleading statements to promote the sale of cigarettes.” Those are their own words whispered in secret internal documents. After the government finally required the first explicit warning that cigarettes cause lung cancer in 1985 to be carried on packs, Frank Graffeo began trying to break free from his addiction, ultimately succeeding in 1988. But unfortunately, it was too late and he was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 3B lung cancer in early 1994 and died less than a year later after radiation and chemotherapy failed to save his life.
What almost no one from his generation or the ones that followed shortly thereafter knew was that since at least 1953 the tobacco industry had been secretly conspiring as an industry to conceal truths that they knew: cigarettes were highly addictive and cigarettes caused many diseases, most notably lung cancer and COPD (emphysema). Rather than reveal this knowledge and save millions of lives, the tobacco industry conspired to conceal what they fully knew and understood, challenge good science and medicine that was being done to create a “false controversy,” and engineered their cigarettes to create and sustain addicted smokers and keep them trapped in an addiction cycle until they quit or died. Disgustingly, despite this knowledge, the tobacco industry targeted teenagers and children in recognition of their knowledge that more than three-quarters of all regular smokers being smoking before the age of 18.
PKB has committed to representing these victims of the tobacco industry’s deplorable conduct and help families get their day in Court. With a fair trial, after seeing the evidence from these cases, juries in almost ninety-percent of PKB’s Engle cases across Florida have returned verdicts against the tobacco industry and PKB lawyers have recovered over $85 million in verdicts for these clients.