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 399.

    Ludicrous. Alcohol kills more people. so sue the breweries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Think I will sue the Lib Dems

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    If, after all these years, you're STILL not aware that smoking's bad for your health then quite frankly you're an idiot.

    Speaking as a smoker, the blame lies at the door of the individual who allows him/herself to take up the habit. This is yet another example of contemporary blame culture or 'Sue everything else for my problems' society.

  • 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

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    @387 (and others commenting on UK & 3rd world smoking history)

    Don't assume that there were no warnings when he started smoking just because they didn't start here until 2004.

    In the USA they have been a mandatory requirement since 1965, well before he started.

    All that matters is US smoking regulations, which the companies have followed so any claims should be against the government

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    If that money is ever paid, it should go to the victims of second-hand smoking caused by her husband. More investment needs to go into e-cigarettes until they become a valid replacement for tobacco smoking (only a small minority currently think so now) so that only the user is at risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    if you do not know smoking is harmful to you by now you should be locked up for your own good and the safety of those around you . Smoking is harmful and so is this judgement its a wrong un

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    The tobacco companies get sued for millions whilst the smokers get locked up for adding some pot grown in their back gardens.


  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Every sane person knows that smoking should be illegal. Why? Because it kills those who DON'T smoke as well as the idiots who do. I lost a beloved uncle to bladder and lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke. Perhaps massive lawsuits against tobacco companies will help end the stranglehold the tobacco industry has on government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    How stupid is the American justice system? On a par with most of its politicians and citzens. They all deserve one another. Crazy decision.

  • Comment number 389.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    What a disgrace. Who the hell needs that much money? Why does the US still accept such ridiculous law suits
    She waits 12yrs. He was an adult and made choices. Cars can kill - I still drive. Alcohol kills - I still drink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    I can't believe what's happening here, how can you sue for that amount of money, its ridiculouse, I stopped 17yrs ago and I was on at least 60 a day so why couldn't he stop. You're telling me because there was no warnings on the pkts at the beggining that we ALL thought inhaling smoke would be Good for us... wake up. We'll be sueing the midwife next for assault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Corporations are allowed to generate immense profit by selling products which are dangerous to health and they still do this. Mobile phones are on the WHO list of carcinogenic products. Its easy to make lawyers the bad guys and the sums in question are sickening but surely someone has to hold these people to account. Or do we just let the circus continue?

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    A better result would be for the widow to take proportion of the money and donate the rest to charities fighting cancer etc. It will be a good tax deduction for her too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    I think some of that should have gone to the families of Alan Landers and David Mclean, who adorned thousands of billboards across the USA as the Winston man and the Marlboro cowboy, both of whom died of lung cancer, Landers just before he was due to testify against the tobacco company.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Can I sue the government?, it is quite obvious they have gained the most from my smoking,, 65%tax on my 7 pound a day habit for the last 30 years is quite a substantial amount of profiteering from my addiction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    R J Reynold's new advertising slogan.

    "Cigarettes worth dying from"

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.


  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    As a 12 year-old in 1956, we had a presentation in school about the dangers of smoking which included film of a dissection of a human lung which was riddled with cancer caused by smoking.

    The information was out there and anyone who claimed to be unaware of the consequences of smoking was being wilfully ignorant and only had themselves to blame.


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