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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Florida jury awards $23 billion punitive damages against RJ Reynolds

R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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A Florida jury has awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer punitive damages of more than $23 billion in her lawsuit against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the nation's second-biggest cigarette maker.
The judgment, returned on Friday night, was the largest in Florida history in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff, according to Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the woman's lawyer, Chris Chestnut.
Cynthia Robinson of Florida Panhandle city of Pensacola sued the cigarette maker in 2008 over the death of her husband, Michael Johnson.
Johnson, a hotel shuttle bus driver who died of lung cancer in 1996 at age 36, smoked one to three packs a day for more 20 years, starting at age 13, Chestnut said.
"He couldn't quit. He was smoking the day he died," the lawyer told Reuters on Saturday.
After a four-week trial and 11 hours of jury deliberations, the jury returned a verdict granting the widow $7.3 million and the couple's son $9.6 million in compensatory damages.
The same jury deliberated for another seven hours before deciding to award Robinson the additional sum of $23.6 billion in punitive damages, according to the verdict forms.
Lawyers for the tobacco company, a unit of Reynolds American Inc [RAI.N] whose brands include Camel cigarettes, could not immediately be reached for comment.
But J. Jeffery Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R.J. Reynolds, said in a statement quoted by the New York...
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