JULIE ADAMSON, individually and as Personal Representative for the ESTATE OF JACKLYN ADAMSON v. R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY


DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA FOURTH DISTRICT JULIE ADAMSON, individually and as personal representative of the ESTATE OF JACKLYN ADAMSON, Appellant, v. R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY, Appellee. No. 4D19-3242 [July 21, 2021] Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County; Meenu Sasser and Cymonie Rowe, Judges; L.T. Case No. 502016CA008532. Celene H. Humphries and Thomas J. Seider of Brannock Humphries & Berman, Tampa, Gregory D. Prysock, Katherine M. Massa, and Antonio Luciano of Morgan & Morgan, Jacksonville, Keith R. Mitnik, of Morgan & Morgan, Orlando, and James D. Clark of Morgan & Morgan, Tampa, for appellant. Val Leppert and Chad A. Peterson of King & Spalding, Atlanta, GA, for appellee. GROSS, J. In this Engle progeny wrongful death action, the plaintiff, Julie Adamson, as personal representative of the Estate of Jacklyn Adamson, appeals a final judgment in favor of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (“RJR”) entered after a jury returned a defense verdict. We affirm, holding that the trial judge did not abuse her discretion by including Florida Standard Civil Jury Instruction 301.11(a) in the charge to the jury. Background The decedent, Jacklyn Adamson, smoked 50 cigarettes a day. In May 1992, at the age of 40, she was diagnosed with a lung mass. She died of cancer in August 1993, leaving behind her husband, John Adamson, and their 10-year-old daughter, Julie. One of the disputed issues in this case was whether the decedent had primary lung cancer (i.e., cancer that had originated in her lung and metastasized elsewhere) or secondary lung cancer (i.e., cancer that had originated elsewhere but metastasized to the lung). The Medical Evidence and the Limited Medical Records The only medical records available were 42 or 43 pages generated from the decedent’s three-day stay in March 1993 at Rhode Island Hospital, where she underwent gamma knife surgery to treat a metastatic brain tumor. The operative report stated: “This is a woman who presents with a lung mass in May of 1992. Biopsy revealed adenocarcinoma.” The operative report also stated that the diagnosis was “left occipital brain metastasis from lung.” The Plaintiff’s expert pulmonologist agreed that the parties did not have all of the decedent’s medical records, that there were no medical records of the decedent’s initial workup and diagnosis, and that there were no medical records from the last six months of the decedent’s life. He acknowledged that “a lot of the records that would have existed for Mrs. Adamson no longer exist.” He explained that this was not uncommon, because most hospitals “now only keep records for two years.” Still, the Plaintiff’s expert opined that there were sufficient medical records to establish a diagnosis because the mass was found in the lung, the mass was biopsied in the lung, the biopsy showed “a lung cancer type of lesion,” and the decedent was treated with a chemotherapy “specifically designed to treat lung cancer.” He testified that the decedent’s death was caused by “complications from her …

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