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$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

A Florida jury awarded a smoker's widow one of the largest ever legal wins against a tobacco company - a whopping $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

Cynthia Robinson sued the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, maker of Camel cigarettes and other tobacco products, for not informing her husband that cigarettes are addictive and can cause lung cancer.

Robinson told NBC: "They concealed information that was harmful to a human for years."

Robinson's husband, Michael Johnson, died in 1996 of lung cancer at just 36 years old after smoking for most of his life.

This award is the highest amount a jury in Florida has ordered since 2006. But, why such a high amount?

Again, the jury ruled that Robinson be given the $23.6 billion in punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and are paid to the plaintiff. Then, $16.8 million was awarded for compensatory damages - damages for covering what was lost - in this case Robinson's husband. She gets those too.

A New York Times article included a quote from a high profile lawyer who explained a verdict this pricey is not typical. "There have not been multibillion-dollar punishments in the Engle cases for one reason: We are afraid to ask for them. We are afraid of what will happen in the appellate process,"

There aren't a lot of details out yet about what went on in that courtroom to make the jury decide on such a high amount. Robinson's lawyers are speaking out though.

NPR reports attorney Christopher Chestnut said, ‚Äč"The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of ... the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes."

And attorney Willie Gary told WPTV, "We've made a difference already. I think less people are gonna smoke. I think that the tobacco companies are going to get their act together. They're gonna make safer cigarettes. We know they can. They'll just make a little bit less money, but they'll save a whole lot of lives and that's what its all about."

Obviously, R.J. Reynolds is not thrilled about the verdict. Pensacola News Journal obtained a statement from Reynold's vice president Jeffery Raborn saying, "This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented."

CNN pointed out this case used to be part of a class-action lawsuit that was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court. In its 2006 ruling, the court cleared the way for individual lawsuits against tobacco companies.

R.J. Reynolds reps say they plan to appeal the ruling.

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printquick July 21 2014 at 7:11 AM

As much as I have a disdain for cigarettes he is still responsible for his own choices. I am 55 and have never known a time in my life when I didn't know cigarettes were bad for you. He falls in this timeline too so he knew they were bad for him, don't suddenly act ignorant as if you didn't know.

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16 replies
dram2500c July 21 2014 at 7:35 AM

The jury is at least as stupid as the dead smoker.

Flag Reply +96 rate up
9 replies
sle21701 July 21 2014 at 7:15 AM

What a joke... the woman must be brain dead.... she will never get that amount, she should of insisted on an reasonable amount, maybe 2 or 3 million....then on the other hand.... no one forced this clown to smoke.... I would award the lady....zero....

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8 replies
gsnailbanger July 21 2014 at 7:03 AM

You would have to be pretty stupid not to realize that smoking will kill you and you might want to stop.

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7 replies
dredselw July 21 2014 at 7:25 AM

Nobody ever picked up a cigarette and inhaled without being warned by their body that it is bad for you! She doesn't deserve anything! I am a former smoker who had the will power to quit after 29 years.

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11 replies
dollibug July 21 2014 at 8:04 AM

REALLY?????? Did the company FORCE this person to buy and smoke them?

Flag Reply +54 rate up
3 replies
leslie July 21 2014 at 7:17 AM

Maybe she should sue her mother in law for bring such a dumb azz into the world and think the tobacco company for taking him out!

Flag Reply +46 rate up
2 replies
Dan leslie July 21 2014 at 8:41 AM

And why didn't that mother in law do something when her son was smoking at age 13? Certainly she must've smelled it on his clothes (altho many kids smoked menthols & sucked on breath mints to disguise the telltale odor). Hey! The real dumbazzes are folks who smoke cigarets today when the cost is $9 a pack or more. ♣

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Barbara leslie July 21 2014 at 12:22 PM


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joe July 21 2014 at 7:19 AM

Why would they award some bagger that much money? I hate smoking but this jack ass that died knew everything about smoking, I gues everyone has to play stupid.

Flag Reply +29 rate up
9 replies
thayes9217 July 21 2014 at 7:17 AM


Flag Reply +28 rate up
2 replies
David Hickey thayes9217 July 21 2014 at 7:22 AM

Finally I actually agree with the majority of posters on this one. I've known as EVERYONE has known smoking is not good for you! She should get NOTHING. Sorry for her loss but the verdict is just stupid.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
James David Hickey July 22 2014 at 5:45 AM

We're all so relieved that you "actually" agree.

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Bob B thayes9217 July 22 2014 at 1:32 AM

There really should be a limit on these ridiculous 'awards'.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
TOM July 21 2014 at 7:23 AM

That is totally ridiculous...she will never see any of it.

Flag Reply +28 rate up
4 replies
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