SOURCE: Schlesinger Law Offices

June 18, 2013 14:25 ET

Fort Lauderdale Law Firm Wins $2.55 Million Verdict Against Big Tobacco; Second Verdict in Two Months Finds Tobacco Caused Plaintiff's Cancer Death

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwired - June 18, 2013) - For the second time in as many months, a Palm Beach County jury has found tobacco companies partly responsible for a smoker's death -- and the surviving spouse's loss.

Late Friday, a jury awarded plaintiffs more than $2.55 million in actual damages and for pain and suffering. The plaintiffs, Beatrice Skolnick as personal representative for the estate of Leo Skolnick, and represented by attorneys from Schlesinger Law Offices, claimed Mr. Skolnick's addiction to cigarettes caused his lung cancer and eventual death. The jury found R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Philip Morris USA Inc., mostly responsible for Mr. Skolnick's 1993 death -- a year after his lung cancer was found.

The verdict was similar to that rendered in the case of Helen Cohen. The Delray Beach grandmother's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and lung cancer killed her following years of suffering. The jury awarded her estate and her husband, David Cohen, more than $2 million in actual damages and for pain and suffering.

"Mr. Skolnick smoked, and smoking caused his cancer. But he trusted the word of tobacco companies who told him over the decades that tobacco was safe. They even sat before Congress and said their product wasn't addictive," said Scott Schlesinger, who defended Beatrice Skolnick, along with fellow attorneys Jonathan Gdanski, Steven J. Hammer and Brittany Chambers of the Schlesinger Law Offices. "As with the Cohen case a month ago, the jury didn't buy their lies."

The two cases are only the latest successful tobacco cases for law firms like Schlesinger. The firm has handled numerous tobacco and cigarette smoking cases, including one the firm lost the same week in the same circuit that the Skolnick case was being tried. The firm also was part of the legal "dream team" that negotiated the landmark $11.3 billion settlement in 1997 for the state of Florida against five tobacco companies.

Both Mrs. Cohen and Mr. Skolnick were members of the Engle class action. The 2006 Florida Supreme Court case found that all Florida citizens and residents and their survivors who have suffered from disease or medical conditions caused by their addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine could bring action. Some 8,000 plaintiffs have sought to protect their rights. In Mr. Skolnick's and Mrs. Cohen's cases, the jury agreed they were addicted to the nicotine found in cigarettes.

Mr. Skolnick grew up in the hardscrabble Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. At an early age, he began smoking Camel, Marlboro and Pall Mall brand cigarettes. Defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to remove Mr. Skolnick from the Engle class. They also tried to link Mr. Skolnick's lung cancer to other causes, including uranium found in industrial yards nearby, and even colon cancer he successfully beat. Skolnick's attorneys successfully convinced the jury otherwise.

Following the three week trial, the six-member jury took six hours to return its verdict before Judge David F. Crow in the 15th Judicial Circuit of Palm Beach County. In its verdict, the jury found R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris USA Inc. each 30 percent at fault for Mr. Skolnick's lung cancer and death, and Mr. Skolnick 40 percent at fault.

"In Mr. Skolnick's case, as in others throughout Florida, it was clear that the jury believed big tobacco played a significant part in convincing plaintiffs that cigarettes were safe to use, and when they were found harmful, that the companies lied to protect their interests," Hammer said.

"This is a big loss for big tobacco, and Florida has thousands more cases lining up like that of Mr. Skolnick and Mrs. Cohen," added Gdanski.


Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Schlesinger Law Offices is a personal injury law firm focused on holding big corporations and major manufacturers accountable for the harm they cause and the damage suffered by the general public through acts of negligence and misconduct. The firm is currently working on cases involving Big Tobacco, Accutane medication, defective medical devices, and defective drug products. For more information log on to

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