Ok I think the woman should receive a settlement but $23 billion is out of this world, no one needs that much money. I can't believe this was passed. What do you guys think?
(Reuters) - A Florida jury has awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer 18 years ago record punitive damages of more than $23 billion in her lawsuit against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the nation's second-biggest cigarette maker.
The judgment, returned on Friday night, was the largest in Florida history in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff, according to Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the woman's lawyer, Chris Chestnut.
Cynthia Robinson of the Florida Panhandle city of Pensacola sued the cigarette maker in 2008 over the death of her husband, Michael Johnson, claiming the company conspired to conceal the health dangers and addictive nature of its products.
Johnson, a hotel shuttle bus driver who died of lung cancer in 1996 at age 36, smoked one to three packs a day for more 20 years, starting at age 13, Chestnut said.
"He couldn't quit. He was smoking the day he died," the lawyer told Reuters on Saturday.
After a four-week trial and 11 hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict granting compensatory damages of $7.3 million to the widow and the couple's child, and $9.6 million to Johnson's son from a previous relationship.
The same jury deliberated for another seven hours before awarding Robinson the additional sum of $23.6 billion in punitive damages, according to the verdict forms.
Lawyers for the tobacco company, a unit of Reynolds American Inc [RAI.N] whose brands include Camel, Kool, Winston and Pall Mall cigarettes, could not immediately be reached for comment.
But J. Jeffery Raborn, vice president and assistant general counsel for R.J. Reynolds, said in a statement quoted by the New York Times that the company planned to challenge "this runaway verdict." Such industry appeals are often successful.
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