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Florida Jury Awards Ex-Smoker $300 Million in Damages

A Florida jury on November 19 awarded Cindy Naugle, a former smoker with emphysema, $56 million in compensatory damages and $244 million in punitive damages for its negligence in causing Ms. Naugle’s disease.
The case was formerly a part of a class action. A trial was held on the class action, but a 2006 decision by the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class, allowing each member of the class to file his or her own lawsuit. In those individual cases the court held that the finding of liability by the jury in the class action would also establish liability in the individual cases. Each plaintiff, however, still had to prove that the addiction to smoking caused the disease. Defense attorneys claim that it was the smoker’s voluntary decision to smoke that caused the disease. They further claim that it is unfair to allow the jury’s finding of liability in the class action trial to be used by the individual plaintiffs.
In February, a jury ordered Philip Morris to pay $8million in damages. In August, R.J. Reynolds lost a $30 million verdict. The attorney for Cindy Naugle put on evidence to show the actual worth of Philip Morris far exceeded the amount claimed by it. He attributes the large verdict to the fact that, while Phillip Morris claimed it was worth $1.7 billion, Ms. Naugle’s attorney proved that in the first three quarters of 2009, Philip Morris paid $3.1 billion in dividends to Altria, its parent company,
It is expected that the Naugle verdict will be appealed, a process that will probably take years.
It is unknown how many Colorado residents, if any, have suits pending against a tobacco company.

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