Fla. jury awards $23.6 billion to lung cancer widow in RJ Reynolds lawsuit

A Florida jury awarded a widow $23.6 billion in punitive damages in her lawsuit against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, her lawyer said.

Cynthia Robinson claimed that smoking killed her husband, Michael Johnson, in 1996. She argued R.J. Reynolds was negligent in not informing him that nicotine is addictive and smoking can cause lung cancer. Johnson started smoking when he was 13 and died of lung cancer when he was 36.

The jury award Friday evening is “courageous,” said Robinson’s lawyer, Christopher Chestnut.

“If anyone saw the documents that this jury saw, I believe that person would have awarded a similar or greater verdict amount,” he said.

The Escambia County trial took four weeks and the jury deliberated for 15 hours, according to the Pensacola News Journal. The verdict included more than $16 million in compensatory damages, the newspaper said.

Chestnut said five of the six jurors who heard the case were 45 or younger, which meant he had to show hem how the tobacco industry presented its product before the public awareness campaigns on tobacco risks and dangers in the 1990s, he said.

In a statement, J. Jeffery Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R. J. Reynolds, said, “The damages awarded in this case are grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law.

“This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented,” said Raborn. “We plan to file post-trial motions with the trial court promptly and are confident that the court will follow the law and not allow this runaway verdict to stand.”

Robinson’s case was once part of a class-action lawsuit in which a jury had awarded $145 billion in damages, but in 2006 the Florida Supreme Court overturned that verdict. In its ruling, however, the state’s high court opened the door for individual lawsuits against tobacco companies.

Robinson filed her lawsuit in 2008.

19 comments

  • paulafffffdef3ddssßsfsffffff

    Sorry about my last comment. my computer went haywire. I don’t agree with the settlement. Nobody made him smoke. He knew the effect. Anybody that smoke is taking a risk..

    • Melissa Abramo

      Well, you weren’t on the Jury so disagree all you want hunny, and i think its great, they know what they are doing, addicting ppl and aiming there ads at children to get them early , fu** the tobacco companies,

      • Chris

        No, this lawsuit was bull. I myself smoke 2-3 packs a day as well. When I die of lung cancer, I wouldn’t want my family to sue. I know good and well what is going to happen from smoking that much. I accepted that risk by smoking. I can quit if I want to. But I don’t want to. Next thing you know smoking is going to be a disease like alcoholism is a “disease”. If you don’t want to die of lung cancer, don’t start smoking. It’s as simple as that.

  • Sam

    Isn’t alcohol addictive and dangerous? Don’t people die from alcoholism? Don’t alcoholics kill others in automobile accidents? Where are the lawsuits against the alcohol corporations?
    People know intuitively that breathing smoke directly into the lungs is unhealthy. They do so at their own risk and peril. What’s next on the lawsuit bandwagon, sugary sodas, red meat, processed foods? OK, then let’s do it now.

  • Julie

    $23.6 billion is a little excessive don’t you think?? If that’s “appropriate”, I would think all smokers that starting smoking before 1980 would sue.

    • Eva

      I keep thinking they made a mistake, as in this article they also say 16 million.. That’s a pretty substantial jump in money.

  • isto

    Think the PC sponsored, Media hyped and promoted, new era Cash Cow, the always expanding Alcohol Industrial Complex, will ever be so PC Targeted?
    Think the PC Power Base and PC Society will someday suddenly discovered that alcohol addiction IS harmful to the body, family, friendships, job, and livelihoods? That alcohol costs tax payers money for medical care, government programs, adds cost to police enforcement for public safety issues, and that most drinkers have to drive home, illegally? Hyped production numbers for What IS considered Politically Correct-Mess Hypocrisy never ceases to amaze.

  • frederick987012

    smoking has been known to be deadly for more than half a century. It is not like the person got sick from his workplace, he got sick from wasting his money and enjoying a good smoke

  • Jim

    How could anyone who can read or hear, that was born about 1960 not know that smoking was bad for them?

  • Wanda

    This is seriously crazy to me. That’s a lot of money. Insane amount of money. People who smoke do it at that their own will and know what the risks are. Now let’s see how many more people will jump on this band wagon of suing the tobacco companies.

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