Gloria Garcia et al. vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company et al

  • Court: Florida State, Miami-Dade County, Eleventh Circuit Court
  • Case Number:2017-005523-CA-01
  • Filed: March 7, 2017
  • Judges: Charles Johnson
  • Case Type: Other Negligence
  • Cause: Wrongful Death

Parties Involved

  • Plaintiff(s): Gloria Garcia | Gloria Garcia as as Personal Representative of the Estate of  Manuel Garcia


Verdict Information

  • Verdict Date: Phase I – June 10, 2024
        • Phase II – June 12, 2024
  • Total Damages awarded to Plaintiff: $16,000,000
    • Phase I: $6,000,000
      • Damages awarded to Gloria Garcia: $3,000,000
      • Damages awarded to Manuel Jose Garcia: $3,000,000
    • Phase II: $10,000,000
      • Punitive Damages: $10,000,000

About the Case


Gloria Garcia filed a wrongful death lawsuit against major tobacco companies—R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, Inc., Liggett Group LLC, and Vector Group Ltd., Inc. She acted individually and as the personal representative of her late husband Manuel Garcia’s estate. Their son, Manuel Jose Garcia, was also listed as a potential beneficiary.

The crux of the complaint was Manuel Garcia’s membership in the decertified Engle class action against tobacco companies. The Florida Supreme Court had decertified the class in 2006’s Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc. case but allowed former members like Garcia to file individual lawsuits within a year, with certain Phase I trial findings binding.

Manuel Garcia sadly passed away on November 11, 1998, and Gloria Garcia was appointed the estate’s representative. The complaint alleged Garcia was addicted to and smoked the defendants’ cigarette brands like Marlboro and Marlboro Lights containing nicotine. Consequently, he developed lung cancer linked to the defendants’ products in the Engle findings.

Relying on those findings, Gloria Garcia asserted strict liability, fraud by concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud, and negligence claims against the tobacco companies. The complaint stated they placed defective, unreasonably dangerous cigarettes on the market while concealing material information about smoking’s health effects and addictive nature, intending smokers like Garcia to rely on this deception.

Notably, it alleged Vector Group Ltd., Inc. was a successor to Liggett Group, Inc. (formerly Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company), exercising control over Liggett. It claimed Vector improperly diverted Liggett’s assets and revenues to defraud Engle class member creditors. The complaint portrayed Vector as Liggett’s mere continuation/de facto merger, with Liggett operating as Vector’s alter ego or instrumentality.


Manuel Garcia developed lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes manufactured and sold by the defendant tobacco companies. The complaint stated that there were no material alterations or modifications to the cigarettes between the time of their manufacture by the defendants and the time that Garcia smoked them. His lung cancer, which the plaintiff claimed was caused by smoking the defendants’ defective and unreasonably dangerous cigarettes, ultimately led to his death on November 11, 1998. In addition to lung cancer being the primary injury, the complaint also alleged that Garcia suffered from the aggravation of previously existing conditions, physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, and incurred medical expenses as a result of his cigarette-related illness.


As the personal representative of her late husband’s estate, Gloria Garcia sought compensatory damages under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. These included funeral expenses, medical costs incurred by Manuel Garcia, loss of his net accumulations, mental and emotional anguish suffered by the survivors, loss of support and services, loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance, and other related damages. Alternatively, if the defendants argued that Manuel Garcia’s death was unrelated to smoking, the plaintiff asserted a claim for survival damages under Florida law, including lost wages, enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of consortium.

Jury Verdict

The jury found that Manuel Garcia’s lung cancer manifested before November 21, 1996. They determined that he was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, and this addiction was a legal cause of his lung cancer and death. They also found that smoking cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris USA Inc. was a legal cause of Garcia’s lung cancer and death.

Miami- Dade County Jury assigned 75% of the responsibility for Garcia’s lung cancer and death to Garcia himself, and 25% to Philip Morris USA Inc. The jury awarded $3,000,000 in damages to Gloria Garcia for her loss of companionship, protection, and mental pain and suffering. They also awarded $3,000,000 to Manuel Jose Garcia for his loss of parental companionship, instruction, guidance, and mental pain and suffering. However, the jury did not find clear and convincing evidence to warrant punitive damages against Philip Morris USA Inc.

In Phase II, Plaintiff was awarded $10,000,000 in punitive damages, bringing the total amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff to $16,000,000.

Court Documents

Available Upon Request