Jurors award $5M in tobacco lawsuit

Alachua County jurors handed down another multi-million dollar verdict last week in a tobacco lawsuit brought by relatives of longtime smokers.

Jurors awarded $5 million in damages Friday to Earline Alexander of Alachua County whose husband, John Alexander, died in 1999, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys. Of the amount, $2.5 million was in compensatory damages while $2.5 million was punitive.

John Alexander, who was 68, had been smoking for about 60 years, the lawsuit stated. He was later diagnosed with tobacco-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The case, tried over a two-week period, named tobacco company R.J. Reynolds as the defendant.

It’s the second such case tried in the county this year by local law firm Avera & Smith. In March, another jury awarded a total of $17.5 million damages against R.J. Reynolds in the death of a man who had lung cancer. The attorneys also are seeking to overturn a law that reduces how much money the tobacco company must post while appealing a verdict.

“These jury trials allow citizens to see internal tobacco documents that Americans have not seen. They don’t know what tobacco has decided to do and what they decided to tell people during the last half of the 20th century,” said attorney Mark Avera.

In April, another Alachua County jury awarded $46.3 million damages in the wrongful death case against R.J. Reynolds filed by a widow of a man who had smoked cigarettes and later died from lung cancer.

The cases stem from a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling in a class-action suit. That case, brought by all Florida smokers against tobacco companies, found that each smoker’s case against a company would have to be decided individually.

R.J. Reynolds has reported in the past it will appeal these cases. Avera said last week’s verdict isn’t the end of the lawsuits. “We’ll be trying quite a few more,” he said.

source: gainesville.com

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