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.