A jury decided that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company must pay $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in a lawsuit filed in the state of Florida. The deceased, Michael Johnson Sr., died in 1996 after years of smoking cigarettes. The jury awarded 16.8 million in actual damages and 23.6 billion in punitive damages. R.J. Reynolds is the nation’s number 2 cigarette maker and plans to fight the verdict calling it “grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law.” Anti-smoking advocates, on the other hand, hailed the verdict as a reminder that the tobacco industry spent many years marketing to children and hiding the truth about their products.
It’s is no secret that smoking causes health risks but the wife of Michael Johnson told the jury that this information was not available to her husband when he started smoking at the age of 13. The Florida jury agreed. While lately the Country have been inundated with public service announcements about the harmful effects of cigarette smoking, this case dealt with information that was available in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. The Florida jury believed that despite R.J. Reynolds knowledge of the harmful effects of smoking, the company did not do enough to inform the public of the danger.
What are Punitive Damages?
Punitive Damages are damages intended to reform or deter the defendant and others from engaging in the type of conduct that formed the basis of the lawsuit or to punish the defendant when their conduct was egregiously insidious. Here the plaintiff’s attorney presented evidence which the jury found to be extremely distasteful.
Personal Injury Attorney Anthony Bruning has collected millions of dollars in punitive damages against big corporations. If you have been injured and need an attorney call us for a free consultation at (314) 898-3078.