RJ Reynolds says it will fight order to pay $23.6bn to wife of cancer victim

Sarah Spickernell
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RJ Reynolds has vowed to appeal against the court's decision (Source: Reuters)
RJ Reynolds says it will fight a court order to pay $23.6bn (£13.8bn) to a woman whose husband died of lung cancer in 1996.
The US's second biggest tobacco company was told that it must pay the significant sum to Cynthia Robinson, wife of the late Michael Johnson, following a four week trial which has also awarded her $16.8 million in compensatory damages.
The court said that the company had been negligent in informing consumers of the dangers of consuming tobacco, and that this had ultimately led to Johnson contracting lung cancer after he became addicted and failed multiple attempts to quit.
Robinson first took action against the company in 2008, and according to her lawyers it is the largest sum of damages ever awarded to an individual case stemming from a class action lawsuit filed in the state of Florida.
"RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards," lawyer Willie Gray told the BBC. “We hope that this verdict will send a message to RJ Reynolds and other big tobacco companies that will force them to stop putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy."
Anti-smoking advocates have also expressed their satisfaction with the result, saying that it serves as a reminder of what they describe as the tobacco industry's history of marketing to young people and concealing the truth about the harmful effects of smoking.
"Wall Street analysts like to say the industry's liability risk is manageable. What this verdict shows is the tobacco industry's risk is far greater than Wall Street analysts would lead investors believe," a spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told ABC News.
But RJ Reynolds believes that the verdict is unfair, and in a statement vice president Jeffery Raborn vowed to appeal against the court's decision, describing it as "grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law".
"This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented," he said.

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