Supreme Court Refuses Tobacco Firm Appeal in Smoker Case
By Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L. March 27, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court said it will not hear an appeal by R.J. Reynolds in a Florida case in which it was ordered to pay $28.3 million to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer after decades of smoking its cigarettes.
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By James Vicini
WASHINGTON | Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:39am EDT
(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it will not hear an appeal by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co in a Florida case in which it was ordered to pay $28.3 million to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer after decades of smoking its cigarettes.
The justices refused an appeal by the Reynolds American Inc unit, which argued that its constitutional due process rights had been violated and that the issue could affect thousands of pending cases in Florida against tobacco companies.
In 2009, a state trial court in Pensacola, Florida, ordered Reynolds to pay more than $3.3 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages to Mathilde Martin.
Her husband, Benny Martin, died in 1995 of lung cancer that she blamed on his long-time smoking of Reynolds’ Lucky Strike cigarettes.
The jury found that Reynolds was 66 percent responsible for his death and that Martin, who started smoking in the 1940s before cigarette packages had health warnings, was 34 percent responsible.
The lawsuit stemmed from the so-called “Engle progeny” cases filed against tobacco companies by sick Florida smokers or their relatives. A class-action lawsuit filed in 1994 by a pediatrician, the late Dr. Howard Engle, produced a $145 billion judgment against cigarette makers six years later.
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