A jury in Florida has slapped the second largest cigarette company in the U.S. with $23.6 billion in damages to a widow who filed for damages after her long-time smoking husband died of lung cancer in 1996.
According to CBS News, Cynthia Robinson sued the cigarette company RJ Reynolds for punitive damages and took the distributor through a four-week trial. The Pensacola found the defending company guilty, awarding Robinson the damages in addition to $16.8 million in compensatory damages.
Thousands of suits like this one have been filed against cigarette companies. The state Supreme Court threw out a $145 billion class action verdict in 2006 and ruled that smokers and families of smokers only had to prove they were addicted to cigarettes or prove that smoking caused illness or death. The Florida Supreme Court re-approved that ruling last year, allowing smokers to sue cigarette companies more easily. Ill smokers or family members no longer need to prove that the cigarette companies knowingly sold deadly products while hiding their dangerous nature.
According to Yahoo! News, RJ Reynolds responded to the lawsuit. The company’s vice president and assistant general counsel, J. Jeffery Raborn released the following statement on the matter:
“This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented. 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.”
Raborn called the damages “grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law.”
Cynthia Robinson’s side made a statement of their own. One of her attorneys, Christopher Chestnut, said the following:
“The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of and the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes.”
Robinson and her attorneys were not necessarily going after RJ Reynolds to get money and earn compensation for her the death of her late husband, Michael Johnson Sr.; but rather the lawsuit was meant to move the nation one step forward in stopping tobacco companies from targeting the youth with their misleading cigarette ads. Another one of Robinson’s attorneys, Willie Gary, said,
“If we don’t get a dime, that’s OK, if we can make a difference and save some lives.”
The plaintiff claimed the cigarette company targeted her and her husband early on when she was a teenager. She wants to prevent other tobacco companies from doing so in the future. However, RJ Reynolds claims they will appeal the verdict because Cynthia Robinson knew the risks of smoking because their cigarettes featured warning labels.
Check back with The Inquisitr to see how the appeals turn out. In the meantime, check out The Inquisitr’s last big story on cigarettes about a huge tobacco merger between major cigarette companies.
[Image Courest of Fleetowner.com]