Jurors in Levy County have broken a streak of legal victories for the defensive team representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, awarding the family of a deceased smoker $72 million in punitive damages and an additional $8 million in compensation for the death of James Cayce Horner, a lifelong smoker who died from lung cancer in 1996 at age 78.
The case is the second largest jury verdict awarded following the Florida Supreme Court’s 2006 desertification of the Engle v. Liggett Group class-action lawsuit that involved more than 7,000 individuals around the country with smoking-related diseases and family members of deceased smokers.
As reported by Business Week:
The verdict comes four days after a Miami-Dade County jury decided in favor of Altria’s Philip Morris USA. That verdict was the eighth courtroom victory for tobacco companies in Florida since the end of August, Philip Morris said in a statement. The industry faces thousands of smoker-liability cases in Florida because of a decision by the state’s Supreme Court.
In the 2006 decision, the Florida high court ruled that smokers can’t sue as a class and overturned a $145 billion punitive-damages verdict in the case. The court said that former class members in the Engle case, named for lead plaintiff Howard Engle, can sue individually.
In April, a jury in Gainesville awarded $91 million to the widow of a man who died from lung cancer after decades of smoking products made by R.J. Reynolds, the nation’s third largest cigarette producer, but that award was cut in half as the smoker was found 49 percent responsible. Levy County jurors determined that Horner was 10 percent responsible for his death.
“People need to be reminded, again and again, of the true cost—in precious human life—that R.J. Reynolds has imposed and continues to impose on our society,” plaintiffs’ counsel David Sales said in a statement.
Since 2009, jurors in Florida have awarded more than $310 million to smokers and their families.