Fla. jury slams RJ Reynolds with $23.6B in damages (yes, billion)


#1

From the AP:
A Florida jury has slammed the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. with $23.6 billion in punitive damages in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer in 1996.

The case is one of thousands filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court in 2006 tossed out a $145 billion class action verdict. That ruling also said smokers and their families need only prove addiction and that smoking caused their illnesses or deaths.

Last year, Florida’s highest court re-approved that decision, which made it easier for sick smokers or their survivors to pursue lawsuits against tobacco companies without having to prove to the court again that Big Tobacco knowingly sold dangerous products and hid the hazards of cigarette smoking.

The damages a Pensacola jury awarded Friday to Cynthia Robinson after a four-week trial come in addition to $16.8 million in compensatory damages.

Interesting. Particularly considering the market capitalization of Reynolds American International (the holding company that owns the RJ Reynolds business segment) is $31.4 billion.

Of course, this will be tied up in appeals for years, if not decades to come. And when it is all said and done, the amount of the award will be decidedly less than $23 billion.

However, what I find most interesting is that this company was successfully sued for a legal product that acted exactly as it was supposed to do and was not defective in any way (smoking tobacco releases is designed to release certain carcinogens into the lungs of the smoker).

It was known for 32 years prior to the deceased’s death that smoking was hazardous, yet he decided to do so anyway. Nobody held a gun to his head forcing him to ingest cigarette smoke. He was NOT a victim in any way, shape or form. He was a voluntary participant in his own demise. Sure, there may have been elements of physical addiction involved, but, there have been plenty of people who have quit smoking, so it essentially comes up to him voluntarily continuing to smoke.

You are, of course, welcome to make whatever statements you wish about the evils of tobacco. My answer would be if tobacco is so evil, then it should be made totally illegal.


#2

I haven’t seen the data so I cannot comment on whether or not the verdict is just or not. But I do know that corporations are not always hallmarks of transparency when it is not in their interest.


#3

I agree, I cannot understand how tobacco is still legal to anyone over 18 to buy, they can buy as much as they want, anytime day or night…??? LOL Yet, at the same time, our Govt goes after illegal street drugs, and tell us they are protecting public health and safety…OK, yeah right!!

Someone needs to tell them to hit the local convenience store next if they are so concerned with the health and safety of the public. LOL However something tells me the money govts get from tobacco taxes kind of makes them look the other way when it comes the the dangers to public health and safety tobacco causes…so, it boils down to money trumping safety and health, (as long as its ENOUGH money, on a consistent basis).


#4

Yep. Tobacco should be a Schedule I controlled substance, alongside heroin and peyote. It has no legitimate medical usage, and it only serves to cause an insane drain on our health care system’s finances and early deaths.

But the whole controlled substance chart needs to be completely worked around. Marijuana should be Schedule IV, Ecstasy should be Schedule II, and tobacco should be Schedule I, based on the government’s definition of what each Schedule means. But tobacco makes money so yay capitalism :frowning:


#5

First, tobacco is legal. As the OP stated, it makes no sense to be sued for something which performs as designed on willing participants. If a person doesn’t or didn’t know it was unhealthy, they have much bigger problems in life than tobacco. My father has a 7th grade education, learned to read as an adult and started smoking at 13. He said back the. In the backwoods everyone knew it wasn’t healthy. If he knew, everyone knew.

Second, what’s with the comedy of tobacco should be illegal or scheduled when many of the same people saying this are advocates for legalized and recreational marijuana use, as with other drugs? Can we at least be consistent? Should all alcohol also be illegal? Maybe people should be responsible for their actions.

Third, if we did away with everything which has potential to do us harm, we would destroy everything on the planet, including people. A little common sense goes a long way. I wish I could sue someone else for each stupid thing I’ve done in my life and shift the blame to them, undeservingly.


#6

If that’s the criteria, might as well reinstate the 18th Amendment - alcohol ticks all the same boxes.


#7

Yes, tobacco is bad for health. Tobacco users know the risks when they smoke or chew this. The former AZ Attorney General during the mid to late 1990s (Former Arizona A.G. J. Grant Woods 1991 to 1999) campaigned against tobacco industry lecturing on the dangers of tobacco, justifying suing them. Yes, he is right that tobacco is bad for health-then make tobacco illegal-make the production, sale and use of tobacco illegal. Yet rather than make this illegal, they keep it legal so that people can sue for any diseases they get knowing the dangers involved because there is money to be made from lawsuits.


#8

Actually, they keep it legal because they are like mobsters who don’t particularly care just as long as they get their cut (i.e., taxes).


#9

A recent study showed that nicotine can actually help sufferers of depression as it releases the “happy” chemical (Seratonin?), so not completely useless. It can be more effective that some anti-depressants.

Whether or not it outweighs the other risks of smoking of course is debatable - I actually won’t say the answer is always no. I’m more concerned about my health today (including mental health) than I am what will happen in 30 years.

I’ll try and find a link to it. It was reported in my local paper and I didn’t think to save it.


#10

How does that make the government any different than rj Reynolds. They are both only interested in their cut of the action.


#11

Yes, you are right, money is what its all about, BUT this also confuses me…Govts know how much money is being made illegally in the street drug trade, and they could have mountains of cash if they legalized these and taxed them heavily…yet they seem to be pretty tough on street drugs (on the surface anyway)…strange that greed plays a big part in keeping cigarettes legal, but when they know how much they could be making off other drugs, they push for more laws against them being legalized…??? what am I missing here?


#12

The same can be said with people that use opiates, when they are used ‘happy, feel good’ chemicals flood the brain, so these help with depression as well, but for the most part, are only used for pain relief.


#13

The Government has no justified mandate upon Natural Law with which to employ its powers of prohibition over Tobacco. We already have an illogical legal system in the west; don’t make it any worse with empty reactionary slogan.

This; if Tobacco were criminalised, Alcohol falls under the same category. They would both need to be criminalised for there to be any consistency.


#14

Perhaps a better way to tackle this is to pass a legislative law banning the substance since the constitutional route failed so miserably.

But then again, given the state of our union, where the only laws that are enforced are those the government choses to enforce, that may not be such a good way to deal with this problem. :hmmm:


#15

I do not see either as being morally sound in this case.

The difference is that Reynolds is like the drug cartel. They buy the agricultural product from farmers, process it, and distribute it.

I see the government like the mob who is paid by the cartel for protection.

Not the same, but that’s not to say one is more moral than the other.


#16

You mean they lied for decades, denying any links between smoking and cancer all the while working to make smoking more addictive.

I just started chemo and I’m still tempted. I started when I was 14, no one checked IDs & I remeber free cigarets (five packs) being given away at the county fair, again no age check.

I’m not suing anybody, but if the tobacco companies are driven out by lawsuits, good riddance. They’ve made probably trillions over the years.


#17

As opposed to the modern pendulum swing where every ailment is presumed to have been caused by tobacco even if the person only once met someone who smoked 25 years prior across from them on a farm? I don’t think you are going to find anyone who will deny smoking is not good for you, but it seems rather ridiculous to blame so much on tobacco and the companies which produce tobacco. People die in auto accidents daily, usually as a result of poor choices (as with tobacco), but no one is advocating their destruction. In addition, some tobaccos are not nearly as bad as the cigarettes people group them with, such as pipes. As I mentioned before, it makes no sense to attack tobacco while promoting a more dangerous substance which gets the user high.

I recently went to the doctor and was asked if I smoked. I told them I had the occasional cigar, usually as often as I have a Scotch, about once a week on average. I was “informed” I was tobacco dependent. That is just dumb, especially when I am not classified as alcohol dependent. What we are seeing today is over reaction.

My father recently has quadruple bypass surgery and a third of one of his lungs removed, but he doesn’t blame anyone. He is almost 70 and been smoking since 13, left school before finishing the 8th grade, couldn’t read or write until my eldest sibling was learning to read and write, not what one would consider an educated and informed person, but he told me everyone knew it was bad for you then, on the farm, where he didn’t even brush his teeth until he was drafted into the Army.


#18

If you accept the premises that RJ Reynolds was the cause of this man’s death; I’m confused on the courts justify $23.6B in damages! I don’t know anything about the man who died, but I’m going to assume he didn’t have potential to make $23.6B over his life time.


#19

This happened awhile back with Philip Morris, they were fined a few billion dollars. this was over 10 yrs ago, everyone thought they were going to go out of business or raise their prices to ridiculous levels, but none of the above happened…?? I guess they just paid the bill and went on business as usual, they can make back that kind of money in a year or less I imagine.

I think the courts are trying to send a message, but I doubt RJ will hear it, even at that amount of money, it seems like alot to us, but to them, its not that much…Thats another thing I dont understand, if so many people have stopped using their products in modern times, then why do ALL these tobacco companies still make so much money consistently, year after year? There must be ALOT of people still using on a daily basis or alot of new users getting started…?


#20

I am siding with the tobacco company on this one. I find over 23 billion to be excessive. Plus I think there was another 16 million on top of that. He smoked for 25 years. Did they have proof he was smoking at 13? During thosr 25 years it was known smoking was not good for you. I don’t know when they began putting the warning on the side of cigarette packages.
I smoked for 4 or 5 years in the 70’s and I knew it was not healthy.
I quit smoking when I got pregnant so I obviously was worried about the health of my baby. That was 1979. If this man smoked it was because he chose to and ignored the dangers of smoking.

So I fail to see why the wife won such an excessive amount of money.


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