Class Actions -- 2017

Graham v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.   (11th Circuit)

Defending due process rights in preclusion cases

The NAM filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit arguing that the lower court violated the defendant’s due process rights when it discarded the longstanding principle that preclusion is only acceptable when identical issues have been actually and necessarily decided. That decision created the possibility of enormous liability flowing from proceedings unlike the normal trials guaranteed by due process, in which a plaintiff must prove each of the elements of his or her claims. More broadly, the decision poses a grave risk of similarly unjustified liability being sought against other product manufacturers. If allowed to stand, the ruling has the potential to dramatically transform the law of preclusion and improperly increase the liability exposure of manufacturers doing business in the United States by relieving countless plaintiffs of the burden of proving fundamental elements of their causes of action.

The 11th Circuit unfortunately replaced this unorthodox approach to claim preclusion with an even more fundamental error. It reimagined the jury’s verdict to have found each defendant liable as to every product during the entire forty-year period at issue and further held that this “finding” must be given issue preclusive effect.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (April 22, 2016)


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