Florida Jury Awards $24 Billion in Tobacco Wrongful Death Case
A Florida jury made history on Friday, July 18th, by awarding nearly $24 billion in punitive damages to a widow whose husband died of lung cancer. As our personal injury lawyers know, this jury award, issued against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., is one of the largest in a single plaintiff case in our state’s history.
Over the course of the four-week trial, the widow’s attorneys argued that the tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (which is a subsidiary of the behemoth Reynolds American Inc.), was negligent in informing consumers about the health risks of smoking cigarettes and, as such, is liable for the death of the woman’s husband. After deliberating for fifteen hours, the Escambia County jury came back with the multi-billion dollar verdict. Additionally, the jury also awarded more than $16 million in compensatory damages to the estate of the deceased man.
Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in a few critical ways. Where as compensatory damages are awarded to cover things such as funeral costs, medical bills, loss of income, mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc., punitive damages are awarded in cases of extreme negligence and/or wrongful death. The purpose of punitive damages, as their name implies, is to teach a lesson, to ensure that similar types of wrongdoing and negligence do not occur in the future. While there’s no way to predict the future, punitive damages serve as a strong warning, a warning typically in the form of judgment against the negligent party valued at millions or billions of dollars. In this case, the punitive award – the $23.6 billion – is intended to impose a serious financial blow to R.J. Reynolds.
Without a doubt, and as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company employees and spokespeople have already said, the tobacco giant will appeal the jury awards. The company has no plans of slowing down production, as they’ve just recently announced a takeover of competitor Lorillard, evidence that R.J. Reynolds is strategically positioning themselves to conquer the burgeoning e-cigarette market.
Though this significant jury award won’t put the mammoth tobacco corporation out of business, it will certainly make a dent in their corporate earnings and provide a form of justice to the woman whose husband fell victim to R.J. Reynolds corporate practices – the company, after all, makes money by producing and marketing a product that has been scientifically proven to lead to cancer. Nearly half-a-million Americans die every single year from the harmful effects of tobacco.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green have been fighting for the legal rights of victims for a long time; with over 30 years of combined experience, our attorneys have garnered the knowledge necessary to handle cases such as wrongful death lawsuits successfully.
If you or a loved one has incurred an injury (or death) due to the wrongdoing of another, whether in a car accident or a slip-and-fall or a case of corporate greed (such as the case described in this blog), you may have a legal right to compensation from the negligent party. For a free, private and legal consultation, please contact our attorneys at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or e-mailing us.