Smoker’s Widow Awarded $23.6 Billion In Lawsuit Against RJ Reynolds

July 22, 2014  |  

Katherine Welles /

Right on the heels of news that it was purchasing the world’s No. 3 cigarette maker, Lorillard, RJ Reynolds has been ordered to pay $23.6 billion in a landmark lawsuit. The figure is 230 times what the plaintiff was asking for, more than $100 million.

The widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer in 1996, Cynthia Robinson, brought the suit against the No. 2 tobacco company. And now a Florida jury has sided with her and has directed RJ Reynolds to fork over  $23.6 billion in punitive damages.

“The case is one of thousands filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court in 2006 tossed out a $145 billion class action verdict,” reports The Huffington Post. Under that ruling smokers and their families had to only prove addiction and that smoking led to their illnesses or deaths.

A Pensacola jury awarded the multi-billion-dollar award after a four-week trial. The tobacco company must also pay an additional $16.8 million in compensatory damages. According to Robinson’s attorneys, the punitive damages are the largest of any individual case tied to the original class action lawsuit.

In 2008, Robinson individually sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.on behalf of her late husband, Michael Johnson Sr. “The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of and the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes,” said one of the woman’s attorneys, Christopher Chestnut.

Robinson maintains that her husband wasn’t given all of the details about what’s in cigarettes, thereby denying him of the ability to make an informed choice. A clip played in court shows execs saying cigarettes aren’t addictive, contradicting statements in corporate documents.

Of course, RJ Reynolds is not too happy. Its vice president and assistant general counsel, Jeffery Raborn, claimed the damages were “grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law.”

“This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented,” Raborn said. “We plan to file post-trial motions with the trial court promptly, and are confident that the court will follow the law and not allow this runaway verdict to stand.”

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  • hate_free_zone

    Damn let her win, yall acting like yall would give the money back if it were you, fuckin leeches

  • Barbara Kennedy

    From Wikipedia:

    “Health warnings on cigarette packages:
    Surgeon General’s warning on a cigarette pack, 2012.
    Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health (1966–1970)
    Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health (1970–1985)
    SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy. (1985–)
    SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health. (1985–)
    SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight. (1985–)
    SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide. (1985–)”

  • Bry Shonyea

    I swear people are so greedy. Girl have several seats. Tobacco has been around long before your husband. And will continue to be around (sorry about your lost && all) but only person that needs to be blamed for this is your husband. Whome you said had been smoking for years.?? Right… He “didn’t know” all the harmful chemicals. PUH-LEASE.

  • Dominique Thompson

    I would agree with personal responsibility had my grandmother not recently died of small cell lung cancer. Nicotine is highly addictive and did not always come with the warnings on the label. When my grandmother started smoking in the 50s it was the cool thing to do and it was pretty common to see pregnant women smoking. Hell the Marlboro man died of COPD a smoking related disease. By the time the labels were attached to the cigarette boxes millions of people were already addicted.

  • HotJupiter

    I agree, what happened to self responsibility? They knew good and well cigarettes would kill him. There is no excuse these days. The company shouldn’t be penalized for capitalizing on free trade and supplying for the demand. People need to stop being victims.

  • Trisha_B

    “her husband wasn’t given all of the details about what’s in cigarettes, thereby denying him of the ability to make an informed choice…”

    Seriously? people knowingly kill/hurt themselves but turn around & blame someone else smh. I would understand if he died due to 2nd hand smoking, but he did that too himself. Who doesn’t know what cigarettes do to people? It’s been known for decades smh. But congrats on the win tho

    • Kenedy

      Yeah…this is the epitome of a frivolous suit. They will appeal this of course & I doubt the damages awarded will stand….too excessive. I’m not sure what to think of the jury that awarded the damages….I don’t think a grown a** man who picked up a cigarette for the first time, and couldn’t stop 40 yrs later, should be blaming a multi-billion dollar corporation

      • Trisha_B

        People find any loophole to get a come up. Like the woman who sued Mcdonalds for not letting her know her coffee was hot b/c they didn’t have any warning labels

        • Nicky

          Ya’ll are some straight up haters!

        • superme0126

          The womens coffee was 110 degrees and gave her 3rd degree burns that is not normal

          • Trisha_B

            Coffe is hot, she saw the steam coming out. Wait for it to cool, not chug it

          • Nikia D-Shiznit

            Why would any sane, rational person put a hot cup of coffee in their lap? That’s what happened, and she got burned. Coffee=hot. Not going to put it where I could potentially spill it and get burned.

    • coolyfett

      Well Trisha…let se what she does with the money. I hope they flip it and invest in some good assets.

      • Trisha_B

        She should start a foundation or something promoting the risk of cigarette smoking since she feels people don’t know they are killing themselves

        • Nicky

          What she does with HER money is none of our business.

    • Lex

      Her husband passed in 1996. Things were different during those times and information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that the tobacco companies lied to consumers back then, as they still do now, and the consumers believed them.

      • dellc521

        Warning labels have been on Cigs for decades, you act like 1996 was 1906. i am a smoker and have been for years, when you cannot breathe in the morning and have to smoke a cig before you can breathe, then you should no something is up, i bet the dude tried to quit 100’s of times over the years.

        All they (RJ Reynolds) need to do is find some proof that he tried to quit at one time, disproving the fact he did not know it would kill him or it was addictive. Then prove his Lung Cancer was from smoking not from another source.

        • lex

          What I said was ” …information wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that the tobacco companies lied to consumers back then…” Reread that and see if you can catch what I’m trying to say this time. The Internet was not popping back then like it is now. If he passed in 1996, it’s very likely that he had lung cancer well before…which means he was smoking well before that….possibly going back to the 70s and 80s. Whether there were warning labels or not, it’s no secret that tobacco companies lie to consumers and use unethical advertising tactics. A warning label shouldn’t be a license to poison people. I don’t know what kind of person would defend a large tobacco company anyway.