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Report: RJ Reynolds hit with $23.6 billion judgment

Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:59:09 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 19 2014 09:45:41 PM CDT
RJ Reynolds HQ

REUTERS/Chris Keane

A Florida jury ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay $23.6 billion in punitive damages in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a longtime smoker, The Associated Press reported.

The damages awarded to Cynthia Robinson after a four-week trial are in addition to $16.8 million in compensatory damages, the AP reported.

According to the wire service, the case is one of thousands filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court in 2006 tossed out a $145 billion class action verdict. That ruling said smokers and their families need only prove addiction and that smoking caused their illnesses or deaths.

Robinson’s husband, Michael Johnson Sr., died of lung cancer in 1996, the AP reported. She sued R.J. Reynolds in 2008 on his behalf.

Her attorneys told the AP that the damages are the largest of any individual case coming from the original class action lawsuit.

"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 and the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes," one of the woman's attorneys, Christopher Chestnut, told the AP.

Reynolds' vice president and assistant general counsel, Jeffery Raborn, called the damages in Robinson's case "grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law," according to the wire service.