TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up appeals filed by tobacco companies in 10 Florida lawsuits filed by sick smokers or their family members.

The Supreme Court did not explain its reasons for declining to hear the appeals, which were filed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA and Lorillard Tobacco Co.

A major 2006 decision by the Florida Supreme Court has helped spur thousands of lawsuits against cigarette makers, with some of the cases resulting in multimillion-dollar verdicts.

The 2006 decision, commonly known as the Engle case, said that lawsuits filed by smokers or their family members against the tobacco industry had to be heard separately instead of as a class action — but it also established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers.

Cigarette makers have filed appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court contending, at least in part, that their due-process rights have been violated by the way the Engle findings have been used.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.



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