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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  • Comment number 559.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    Has the notion of personal responsibility for actions just left the US?

    They also gave us the 'hot coffee is hot' warnings. The juries that hand out these ridiculous awards are just plain stupid and greedy. Cancer & Tobacco have been linked for all of my life ... I also smoked and then quit. Any issues resulting are mine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    Even if the payout is ridiculous, the simple fact is that cigarette companies have lied and tried to hide the addictive and dangerous nature of their product.
    Next in the queue are the food companies that done the same with the artifical sugars and fats that are responsible for America's obesity epidemic.

    Even if it does seem unfair, no fine bring back those who have died because of the lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    500. AliBenSawali
    To be honest, it just shows you how stupid a system can become when it is run by middle class liberals who like big houses and fast cars.

    Absolutely. Let the system be run by underclass far-right extremists instead who like badly built tiny houses and cut and shut 2nd hand cars, that'll sort things out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    530. Chessplayer
    "There is nothing harmful about smoking"

    ... and the world's flat.

    Feel free to live in your private world of cigarette smoke. Good luck with your exam results - you need it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    My Dad smoked a pipe until about 1950, when he learned tobacco was bad for your health and he quit. 1950 get that! She should be charged with taking the 'mick'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    The americans have more Lawyers per head of population than any other country in the world. Spurious law suits like this and the system whereby the lawyers share in the profits promulgate the training of yet more lawyers, its a pity they don't all sue the NRA for their promotion of the pernicious gun laws in the states.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    1. The payout should go to helping people stop smoking or a good cause, not to one person (she should get a couple of million max)

    2. Everyone knows smoking is bad, it is called an Addiction for a reason

    3. This was for someone who died when there were no warnings on the packets, he was addicted before the bad was advertised

    4. How many of you drive? Why haven't YOU stopped?

    Pot kettle black.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    I watched my dad 65 and my sister 53 both die of emphysema or what they politely call OPCD (why I do not know) also did some geneology and it highlighted that smokers in my family do not stand a chance but the smoking lobby in the US is strong so this award Will be overturned. If anybody reading this give up then behalf of my dad and sister thankyou

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

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

    Any sensible person knows instinctively that breathing in smoke is not a sensible thing, so why do we even require an official warning?

  • Comment number 549.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    543.Jim Rashid
    1 Minute ago
    hormone enhanced chicken for your twizzlers.....


    When did B Matthews start using that in his TURKEY Twizzlers?

  • Comment number 547.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    510. imemomeme
    I have played spot the pictures of camel classic on the beeb website.
    Have I won and if so do i get a prize.
    Found another one.

  • 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 544.

    More bonkers from the good old USA,if you don`t want people to smoke ban it,if you don`t want people to drink ban it,guns ban them.

    All of the above will kill you,but governments need your TAX....

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Smoking is bad we all know this.
    Next time you drive your kiddies to school think of the noxious fumes it pumps out for all to inhale, the flight to Costa del sun for a top up tan, the additives in our fast food, the smog of cheap goods made in china, hormone enhanced chicken for your twizzlers.....
    We are all smokers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    American litigation culture at its most ridiculous.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    530. Chessplayer
    There is nothing harmful about smoking, my Grandfather smoked 40 capstan....
    I higher percentage of smokers get lung cancer compared with non smokers. So smoking IS harmful. End of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    Ludicrous! People need to take responsibility for their own actions. It was widely known from before the 1970s that smoking is harmful, anyone continuing to do so has made a choice. Yes, it is addictive, but loads of addicts manage to quit if they choose to do so - it's nobody else's fault if you don't manage to quit.


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