Tobacco Company Ordered to Pay $23.6 Billion in Damages to Smoker’s Widow

By Victoria Kim 07/24/14

The objective of the lawsuit was to stop tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds from targeting kids with their advertising.

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Last Friday, a Florida jury awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages to the widow of a smoker who died of lung cancer, which are to be paid by tobacco company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The punitive damages are the largest of any individual case stemming from the original class action lawsuit, according to Cynthia Robinson’s attorneys. The damages were awarded in addition to $16.8 million in compensatory damages to Robinson after a four-week trial.

“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,” said Christopher Chestnut, one of Robinson’s attorneys.

Robinson had individually sued the tobacco company in 2008 on behalf of her late husband, Michael Johnson Sr. The lawsuit’s objective was to stop tobacco companies from targeting youth with their advertising, according to Willie Gary, another one of Robinson’s attorneys.

“If we don’t get a dime, that’s OK, if we can make a difference and save some lives,” Gary said.

But Reynolds won’t go down without a fight. The company’s vice president and assistant general counsel Jeffery Raborn called the damages awarded to Robinson “grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law” and said Reynolds is planning to file post-trial motions with the trial court.

“This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented,” Raborn said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr