RJ Reynolds told to pay wife of cancer victim $23.6bn


Ms Robinson argued that RJ Reynolds was negligent in informing consumers of the dangers of consuming tobacco.

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A US court has ordered the country's second largest cigarette company to pay $23.6 billion (£13.8bn) to the wife of a smoker who died of lung cancer.

RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company was hit with the punitive fine in addition to $16.8m (£9.8m) in compensatory damages.

Cynthia Robinson took action against the firm in 2008, seeking compensation for her husband's death in 1996.

A company official said the verdict was ``grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law.''

During the four-week trial, lawyers for Ms Robinson argued that RJ Reynolds was negligent in informing consumers of the dangers of consuming tobacco.

This negligence, the lawyers said, led to her husband Michael Johnson Sr contracting lung cancer from smoking after becoming "addicted" and failing multiple attempts to quit.

'A message for tobacco firms'

"RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards," Ms Robinson's lawyer Willie Gary said.

"We hope that this verdict will send a message to RJ Reynolds and other big tobacco companies that will force them to stop putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy," he added.

RJ Reynolds plans to appeal against the court's decision, vice president and assistant general counsel Jeffery Raborn said in a statement.

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

``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.''

The punitive damages awarded to Ms Robinson were said to be the largest of any individual case stemming from a class action lawsuit filed in Florida.

Several similar cases have resulted in smaller payouts after the state's highest court ruled that smokers and their families only had to prove addiction and that smoking caused their illness.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, How about people taking responsibility for their own actions, we need tort reform in this country to stop these insane lawsuits

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    The guy knew the risks, they've been well-publicised for years - he just chose to ignore them. Saying he failed to give up several times either means he didn't get the support he needed (from wife?) or he lacked the willpower. Also the payout is an obscene amount - perhaps she should donate it to anti-smoking charities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    I am the last remaining (youngest at 58yrs old) male in my family - 3 brothers and my father dying from cancer (smoking related). All of them died before the age of 63yrs old and knew the risks. I have never smoked.

    Even if the company was to blame, the amount is ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Utter madness, everyone knows smoking is bad for them and always has done. No warnings will make any difference at all if somebody has a vice they wish to continue.

    It sets a ridiculous precedent now that we can just sue companies for our own idiotic choices.

    And the amount is obscene and unjust. Nobody's life is worth that much

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    I smoked from the age of 14 to 41 and was aware of the "cancer thing" I never thought it would effect me. My dad died of lung cancer aged 72 after smoking from the age of 16. I don't blame anyone for my dad's death as he chose to smoke for all those years. It's like having a fatal car crash and blaming others for inventing the car. People need to take responsibility for their own actions


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