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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » CORPORATE CHRONICLE™ » Widow of chain smoker killed by lung cancer wins $23 billion payout from tobacco firm

Widow of chain smoker killed by lung cancer wins $23 billion payout from tobacco firm

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StockGuru

StockGuru
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics

Jul 20, 2014 11:24 By Rebecca Younger

Cynthia Robinson sued cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, over the death of her husband, who had been chain smoking since he was 13

The widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer has been awarded more than $23 billion by one of America's largest cigarette manufacturers.

Cynthia Robinson sued the cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in 2008 over the death of her husband, Michael Johnson.

Johnson, a hotel shuttle bus driver died of lung cancer in 1996 at age 36.

He had smoked one to three packs of cigarettes a day for more than 20 years having started the habit when he was 13 years old.

After a four-week trial and 11 hours of jury deliberations, a jury in Pensacola, Florida, returned a verdict granting $7.3 million compensation to the widow and the couple’s child, and $9.6 million to Johnson’s son from a previous relationship.

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 Ryan Julison, a spokesman for Robinson's lawyer, Chris Chestnut, the judgment, returned on Friday night is the largest in Florida history in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff.

"He couldn’t quit. He was smoking the day he died," the lawyer told Reuters on Saturday.

J. Jeffery Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R.J. Reynolds, which manufactures brands such as Camel, said in a statement quoted by the New York Times that the company planned to challenge "this runaway verdict."

Robinson’s lawsuit was part of a large class-action suit known as the Engle case, which was filed against multiple tobacco companies in 1994.

A jury in that case returned a verdict in 2000 awarding $145 billion in punitive damages, which at the time was the largest such judgment in US history.

However, the ruling was thrown out in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court, agreeing with a lower court that the group was too disparate and each smoker smoked for different reasons.

The court said the plaintiffs could file lawsuits individually.

Courtesy - http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/widow-chain-smoker-killed-lung-3886462#ixzz381bvT8oT

StockGuru

StockGuru
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics

The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR), based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and founded by R. J. Reynolds in 1875, is the second-largest tobacco company in the U.S. (behind Altria Group).

RJR is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc. which in turn is 42% owned by British American Tobacco of the United Kingdom.

British American Tobacco owns 84.13% of Sri Lanka's only Cigarette maker Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC.

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