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 19.

    They have about as much chance of receiving that $23.6 Billion, as we have of commenting on the Malaysian airliner or Israel\Gaza crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    He didn't know smoking was bad for him? Really? Did he live in a cave from birth?

    I'm no fan of smoking - I've never smoked; it's a filthy habit, it's expensive and it wrecks your health but I really don't think the tobacco company can be held responsible for this. They didn't hold him down and force cigarettes in his mouth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Ok now I'm gonna sue Coca-Cola as I've had problems with tooth decay. They never told me this could have happened. I'm also going to sue the sweetie makers as they never warned me. Think I'll sue the beer companies as I'm a stone overweight. They never told me. This award is a complete farce. Just shows how quick the American empire is falling. I'm cringing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Did the company actively discourage Mr Robinson from finding out that smoking did him harm? How asinine was this man in denying that his habit was damaging?
    Drug takers, alcohol consumers and smokers must accept some responsibility for their actions. The USA is after all, the land of the free.
    If no-one bought cigarettes no one would make them. It's his own fault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Presumably, by the time her husband had tried "multiple attempts" to quit, he was well aware of the potential risks.

    I don't see how this judgement can stand. Is the spouse of every dead smoker now entitled to a similarly ridiculous payout?


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