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RE:  Tobacco litigation management


            In Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., 945 So.2d 1246 (Fla. 2006), the Florida Supreme Court decertified a class action lawsuit related to cigarette smoking injuries.  The Court stated that plaintiffs can bring individual suits against tobacco defendants using certain liability findings that were made against the tobacco defendants in an earlier trial.  The task of trying all these suits falls to the individual Circuit Courts of this state.


Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.270 allows the court to hear issues pertaining to common questions of law or fact in related cases.  In Engle, the Florida Supreme Court referenced with approval Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(4)(A), which allows trial courts to develop imaginative solutions to the challenges posed by class action suits and individualized damages. 


Administrative Order 2008-017 was adopted to provide for a “common issue judge” to help manage these cases.  The Florida Supreme Court recently decided not to exercise its discretionary jurisdiction in R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Mathilde Martin, SC 11-483 (July 19, 2011).   Additional matters are expected to be brought before the “common issue judge.”  In order to designate a “common issue judge” and modify the calendar for such hearings, and in accordance with Article V, § 2, Florida Constitution, Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215, and § 43.26, Fla. Stat.,   




1.              This order applies to the cases listed in Attachment A.  Any person may petition the Chief Judge to have a case from Pasco or Pinellas County added to this list for good cause.


2.         A “common issue judge” continues to be available for the limited purpose of resolving pre-trial issues that present either common questions of law or common questions of fact in some or all of the cases listed in Attachment A.  The Chief Judge hereby designates The Honorable John A. Schaefer as the common issue judge. 


3.         When some or all of the parties agree to have a pre-trial issue resolved by the common issue judge, a joint motion shall be submitted, as follows:


    1. The joint motion shall include: (1) the case style and case number of each case involved in the joint motion; (2) a brief statement of the pre-trial issue presented; (3) whether or not the parties are requesting a hearing; (4) a designation of an attorney who will be the contact person for all the parties involved in the joint motion; (5) plaintiffs’ argument, legal authority, and desired relief; and (6) defendants’ argument, legal authority, and desired relief.  The parties involved in the joint motion shall work collaboratively to assemble and deliver the joint motion.


    1. The parties involved in the joint motion shall deliver a number of copies of the joint motion equal to the total number of cases involved in the joint motion to the Clerk of the Circuit Court (“Clerk”).  The Clerk will file a copy of the joint motion in each individual case file involved in the joint motion. 


    1. Immediately after filing with the Clerk, the parties shall deliver a copy of the joint motion to the common issue judge.  Joint motions filed with the Clerk and delivered to the common issue judge before the last day of the month will be heard on the second Friday of the following month.  The common issue judge will notify the attorney designated in the joint motion as to the time and place of the hearing.  That attorney will immediately notify all of the parties involved in the joint motion.   


4.         The resolution of the joint motion shall be binding only on those cases that were part of the joint motion.   


5.         Upon receipt, the Clerk will copy the order issued by the common issue judge and file a copy of it in each individual case file involved in the joint motion.


Administrative Order 2008-017 PA/PI-CIR is hereby rescinded.


DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida on this ______ day of August 2011. 


ORIGINAL SIGNED on August 23, 2011



cc:       All Judges      

            The Honorable Ken Burke, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Pinellas County

            The Honorable Paula S. O’Neil, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Pasco County

Gay Inskeep, Trial Courts Administrator

Myriam Irizarry, Chief Deputy Director, Pinellas County Clerk’s Office

Debbie Gay, Assistant Court Services Director Pasco County Clerk’s Office

Lillian Simon, Director of Administrative Services for Pasco County

Bar Associations, Pasco and Pinellas Counties

Law Libraries, Pasco and Pinellas Counties

Gregory D. Prysock, Esq.                               Keith R. Mitnik, Esq.

Brenda S. Fulmer, Esq.                                   James D. Clark, Esq.

Don Greiwe, Esq.                                           Steven C. Ruth, Esq.

Eric D. Roslansky, Esq.                                  C. Calvin Warriner, III, Esq.

David J. Sales, Esq.                                        Benjamin H. Hill, III, Esq.

Troy A. Fuhrman, Esq.                                   Kelly Anne Luther, Esq.

Stephanie E. Parker, Esq.                               John F. Yarber, Esq.

John M. Walker, Esq.                                     Hendrik Uiterwyk, Esq.           

Stephen A. Barnes, Esq.                                 Brent R. Bigger, Esq.                        

Kenneth J. Reilly, Esq.                                   Howard M. Acosta, Esq.                       

Wayne L. Thomas, Esq.                                 Frederick H.L. McClure, Esq.                

Lewis J. Conwell, Esq.                                   Kent G. Whittemore, Esq.



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