July 21, 2014

Surprise, surprise: RJ Reynolds plans to challenge Florida jury's $23.6 billion punitive damages award

Our readers have probably already seen the many news reports about a Florida' jury's award of $23.6 billion in punitive damages to a smoker's widow.  Not surprisingly, the Associated Press reports that defendant R.J. Reynolds plans to file posttrial motions and an appeal, if necessary, to fight the award as excessive and unconstitutional.

Also not surprising is that legal pundits are predicting the award is unlikely to stand.  "Unlikely" is a bit of an understatement.  There is no way that award can survive.  The more important question is whether the trial judge will reduce the award or order a new trial.  Some commentators are speculating about whether the trial judge or the appellate court will reduce the award to a single-digit multiplier of the compensatory damages award of $16.9 million. Given the enormous size of the award, however, R.J. Reynolds would seem to have a good argument for a complete new trial.  I expect they'll be arguing that the jury was obviously influenced by passion and prejudice, and that they are entitled to a new trial before an unbiased jury.

Related posts:

Florida jury awards $14 million in punitive damages to smoker's family

Florida jury awards smoker's family $22.5M in punitive damages

Florida appellate court reverses $79 million judgment in tobacco case
Florida appellate court reverses $40 million punitive damages award in tobacco case

Philip Morris wins sixth straight trial in Florida smoker litigation

Florida jury awards relatively modest punitive damages in smoker lawsuit

Another punitive damages award in Florida tobacco litigation

Florida jury awards $20 million in punitive damages to smoker's widow

Smoker's widow wins $12.5 million in punitive damages

Florida trial judge cuts $244 million punitive damages award

Florida jury awards $25 million in punitive damages to smoker's widow

"Smokers, tobacco, both winners in early Engle cases"

Jury rules for plaintiff in first phase of retrial after reversal of $145 billion punitive damages award

After reversal of $145 billion class action punitive damages award, Florida smokers seek punitive damages in individual suits