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Lawyers try to break tobacco suit glut

Dec. 8, 2010 at 10:35 AM
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Lawyers for tobacco companies and sick smokers are trying to resolve a glut of Florida cases that could take centuries to litigate.

In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court split up a state class-action lawsuit after a jury awarded smokers $145 billion for illnesses. Jacksonville attorney Woody Wilner filed 3,800 individual claims in federal court, The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union reported.

On Tuesday, attorneys for both sides met with the two federal judges overseeing the cases to discuss how to speed the process.

"It's a huge number of cases for us to be trying to deal with on top of our regular criminal and civil caseload," said U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan. "We're going to do the best we can. ... But our resources are limited."

Corrigan and U.S. District Judge Marcia Howard asked the attorneys for suggestions to expedite the claims, but the only step the sides agreed on was to schedule 10 cases for trial to get the ball rolling. But they did not agree on which 10 cases.