R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the second-biggest U.S. cigarette maker, was told by a Florida jury to pay $30 million to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer after years of smoking, according to a lawyer.
A six-person jury today in state court in Pensacola, Florida, ordered R.J. Reynolds to pay Hilda Martin $25 million in punitive damages to punish the cigarette maker for the death of her husband, Benny Martin, according to the company’s lawyer, Mark Belasic. The jury awarded Martin $5 million in compensation. Belasic said he would appeal.
The case is at least the seventh of its kind to be tried since the Florida Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that smokers couldn’t sue as a class, or group, on behalf of smokers statewide. The court, in the so-called “Engle” case, said smokers could sue individually and extended the time for them to do so. Thousands of such cases are pending across Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court ruling, in a class-action suit headed by a Florida smoker named Howard Engle, upheld a series of factual findings in the case, and said they would apply in all of the individual suits filed by smokers who were part of the Engle class.
The verdict follows an $8 million decision against Altria Group Inc.’s Philip Morris USA unit in February and a $700,000 verdict against Vector Group Ltd.’s Liggett Group unit last month. Both companies said they planned to appeal.
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