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R.J. Reynolds Loses $46.3 Million Smoker’s Verdict

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the second-biggest U.S. cigarette maker, must pay $46.3 million to the widow of a Florida man who died from lung cancer in 1995, according to a Florida jury.

Six state-court jurors in Gainesville voted unanimously in favor of the widow of Frank Townsend, who started smoking at age 13 or 14, according to Greg Prysock, who represented Lyantie Townsend in the case.

The verdict is the latest in favor of a smoker or family member in the state following a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision in the “Engle” case, which allowed individual smoker lawsuits after the court decertified a statewide class-action case.

Read the full story here.

Smokers and their families have won 13 verdicts in 15 trials in these post-Engle cases, including five in March and April, according to Edward Sweda, senior staff attorney for the anti-smoking Tobacco Products Liability Project.

The jurors in Gainesville yesterday returned a verdict of $10.8 million in compensatory damages plus $80 million in punitive damages, Prysock said. Because jurors found Townsend 49 percent responsible for his illness and death, R.J. Reynolds must pay 51 percent of those damages, or $46.3 million.

The case is Townsend v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 08-CA-131, Florida Circuit Court (Gainesville).

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