Washington, July 20: A court in the US has awarded a widow $23.6 billion in damages in a lawsuit against America’s second biggest tobacco company, media reports said Sunday.
Cynthia Robinson in 2008 initiated legal action against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in a Florida court seeking compensation for her husband’s death in 1996. She claimed that smoking killed her husband Michael, and that the tobacco company failed to inform him that smoking can cause lung cancer, CNN reported.
The punitive damages are the largest of any individual case stemming from a class action lawsuit filed, according to the British daily Independent.
The trial took four weeks and the jury deliberated for 15 hours.
“The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco (companies) cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of and the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes,” a lawyer representing Robinson was quoted as saying by the daily.
R.J. Reynolds plans to appeal against the court’s decision. Company’s vice president and assistant general counsel Jeffery Raborn called the damages “grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law”.
Earlier in June, the US Supreme Court turned away cigarette manufacturers’ appeals of more than $70 million in court judgments to Florida smokers.