Florida Appeals Court Overturns $79 Million Verdict Against Tobacco Company

A Florida appeals court overturned a $79.2 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. this week. The personal injury verdict had been awarded to the daughter of a man who died from lung cancer after years of smoking.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports the suit accused the tobacco company of fraud by concealment, conspiracy to commit fraud by concealment and negligence.

The appeals court ruled that it agreed the company holds liability in the man’s death, but found the jury’s awards were excessive. The jury had awarded $72 million in punitive damages and $7.2 million in compensatory damages.

Reynolds could receive a new trial regarding damages, the article notes.

The court stated, “The compensatory damages award is more than the evidence at trial reasonably supports and shocks the judicial conscience. The trial court abused its discretion when it denied Reynolds’ motion for a new trial.”

James Horner started smoking when he was 17. He smoked brands that were made by Reynolds, or were acquired by the company through corporate purchases. The jury decided 90 percent of the blame for Horner’s death was the fault of Reynolds, and remaining 10 percent was the fault of Horner.

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