April 10, 2012

Florida appellate court reverses $79 million judgment in tobacco case

One of the biggest U.S. verdicts of 2010 is no more.

In November 10, a Florida jury awarded $7.2 million in compensatory damages and $72 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds in a lawsuit brought by the adult daughter of a smoker who died from lung cancer.  Yesterday a Florida intermediate appellate court affirmed the jury's finding of liability but overturned the entire damages award.

The court determined that the compensatory damages award was not reasonably supported by the evidence.  Among other things, the court noted that the jury awarded twice the amount of damages that the plaintiff's lawyer requested, and the jury assigned only half the amount of fault that the lawyer conceded should be assigned to plaintiff's father.  Because the court vacated the compensatory damages award, it also vacated the punitive damages award, remanding the case to the lower court for a redetermination of all the damages.

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