Thursday, the Second Circuit Court found that a lower court applied collateral estoppel wrongly. Because of this, a man was unable to relitigate his case against Philip Morris for his wrongful death suit against them. Plaintiff Vincent Bifolck accused Malboro of negligently designing cigarettes. Bifolck claims that his wife died of lung cancer do to Malbroros manipulating of nicotine levels in cigarettes to make them more addictive. Bifolck asked to use a previous case against Philip Morris, where the company was found guilty of violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The lower court claims the cases were not identical and would not be considered when issuing an opinion. Because of this, Bifolck lost his trial. The Second Circuit disagreed with this. The 3 judge panel said, “As we have previously observed, the identicality standard does not require either that the two cases have the same scope or that they involve the same causes of action, Rather, it is met, as here, so long as the issues are identical.” When the Second Court remanded the case, they directed the lower court to reconsider applying collateral estoppel.
Philip Moris claimed the court’s mistake was minor, and wouldn’t affect the outcome of the case. The Second Circuit disagreed with that as well. If this case is won, it could drastically change how tobacco and cigarette cases are handled. If Bifolck was allowed to use the findings, it would have greatly improved his case. Being able to use the manipulating of nicotine levels as a baseline, his whole trial strategy could have changed.
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