US tobacco company ordered by jury to pay $23.6bn in damages

Saturday 19 July 2014 23.39
The wife of a long time smoker sued the tobacco company
The wife of a long time smoker sued the tobacco company

A jury in Florida has ordered a tobacco company to pay $23.6bn (€17.4bn) in damages to the wife of a long time smoker who died of lung cancer.

The jury has ordered the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the company who make Camel cigarettes, to pay $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

The lawyer for the woman said: "We hope that this verdict will send a message to RJ Reynolds and other big tobacco companies that will force them to stop putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy,"

The verdict was seen as one of the largest for a single plaintiff in Florida history.

$16m (€11.8m) compensatory damages was awarded to the estate of Michael Johnson Sr.

Lawyers argued that  RJ Reynolds was negligent in informing consumers of the dangers of consuming tobacco.

They maintained that this led to Johnson contracting lung cancer from smoking cigarettes.

They said Johnson had become "addicted" to cigarettes and failed multiple attempts to quit smoking.

The Escambia County jury returned its verdict after 15 hours of deliberations.

"RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards," Robinson's lawyer Willie Gary said in a statement.

RJ Reynolds plans to appeal the court decision and verdict, vice president and assistant general counsel J. Jeffery Raborn said.

The landmark award was "far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness," he charged in a statement cited by local media.