WWII Hero’s Widow Awarded $6 Million in Engle Case

Donnett Hickson | Legal Staff Writer

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On February 23, 2017, a Florida jury awarded deceased plaintiff’s wife, Blanche Fox, a $6 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds (“RJR”).

Fox alleged that R.J. Reynolds was responsible for the death of her husband, a highly decorated WWII veteran, by lying to consumers about the dangers of tobacco. Fox’s lawyer claimed that the deceased plaintiff, Malcolm Fox, never comprehended the risks of smoking because RJR publicly undermined major scientific studies linking smoking to cancer and other diseases. Malcolm Fox died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after smoking for over 60 years.

Conversely, the defense argued that Fox’s death was directly related to electrical pacing problems in his heart—entirely unrelated to smoking—and claimed that Fox had denied the offer to go to a smoking-cessation program in 1987. They used the latter to contend that his refusal to appear was due to a desire to keep smoking rather than due to an addiction.

The jury ultimately decided that RJR was 50% at fault for Fox’s injuries and decreased quality of life, and Fox was responsible for the other half. The $6 million awarded to Mrs. Fox accounted for damages her husband suffered while he was alive: smoking related injuries like pain, suffering, mental anguish and inability to enjoy life. The jury also determined that RJR was not explicitly responsible for Fox’s death, nor did Fox rely on concealments of the truth of false information by the company because it was his addiction that caused the continuation of tobacco use.

This case is: Fox v. R.J. Reynolds, case # 2008-CV-0263448, in the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida.

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