Widow of lung cancer victim wins $23.6bn in damages from tobacco company RJ Reynolds

Payout was awarded against RJ Reynolds,  America's second biggest tobacco company

Thair Shaikh
Sunday 20 July 2014 15:00 BST
Cartons of Camel cigarettes come off the assembly line at an R.J. Reynolds plant
Cartons of Camel cigarettes come off the assembly line at an R.J. Reynolds plant (AP)

The widow of a cigarette smoker who died of lung cancer has been awarded $23.6billion (£14billion) in compensation from America's second biggest tobacco company.

Cynthia Robinson started legal action in 2008 against RJ Reynolds, makers of the Camel, Pall Mall, Winston and other famous cigarette brands, seeking compensation for her husband's death in 1996.

The punitive damages are the largest of any individual case stemming from a class action lawsuit filed in Florida.

The damages come after a four-week trial and also include an additional to $16.8million (£9.8million) in compensatory damages awarded on Friday.

During the trial lawyers for Ms Robinson argued that RJ Reynolds was negligent in informing consumers of the addictive dangers of tobacco.

Her Lawyers argued that the negligence led to Michael Johnson Sr contracting lung cancer from smoking cigarettes after becoming "addicted" and failing to quit after many attempts to stop smoking.

Christopher Chestnut, a lawyer representing Ms Johnson, said: "The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco [companies] cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of and the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes."

Ms Robinon's lawyers said the goal of the lawsuit was to stop tobacco companies from targeting children and young people with their advertising.

RJ Reynolds plans to appeal against the court's decision - the company's vice president and assistant general counsel Jeffery Raborn called the damages "grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law".

In June, the US Supreme Court turned away cigarette manufacturers' appeals of more than $70million (£41million) in court judgments to Florida smokers.

And in August, a Fort Lauderdale jury awarded $37.5million (£22million), including $22.5million (£13.2million) in punitive damages, against RJ Reynolds, to the family of a smoker who died at the age 38 of lung cancer in 1995.

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