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Jury awards $23.6 billion to Florida widow in smoking lawsuit


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Jury awards $23.6 billion to Florida widow in smoking lawsuit

By Julianne Cassidy. CREATED Jul 20, 2014

A Florida jury has awarded a Pensacola widow $23 billion in punitive damages in her lawsuit filed in 2008 against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. 

Cynthia Robinson claims that smoking killed her husband, Michael Johnson Sr., in 1996, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is to blame. Johnson died of lung cancer at 36 years old, after beginning to smoke when he was just 13.

"Following a nearly four-week trial, the jury deliberated for 15 hours to eventually determine that the tobacco company was negligent in informing Cynthia Robinson's husband, Michael Johnson Sr., that smoking causes lung cancer and that nicotine is highly addictive," reports the Pensacola News Journal. The jury also awarded $16 million in compensatory damages.

"The case was once part of the historic Engle v. Liggett Group Inc. class action suit. In that case, a jury awarded damages of more than $145 billion to a nationwide group of of people with smoking-related disease and family members of deceased smokers," the Pensacola News Journal further reports. "The Florida Supreme Court later later overturned that ruling but said that individual plaintiffs could file individual suits using the Engle jury's findings that smoking causes cancer, nicotine is addictive and the tobacco companies sold defective and unreasonably dangerous cigarettes."

According to Pensacola News Journal, trial attorney Willie Gary said of the tobacco company, "They'll appeal because they always appeal, that's the attitude they have. But no matter how the ball bounces with the appeal, it's not the money that's important in this case."

Julianne Cassidy

Julianne Cassidy

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A city girl gone country, Philadelphia-bred journalist Julianne Cassidy relocated to be a Nashville-based digital editor for Scripps Media, Inc.