Smoking lawsuit winner wants vacation

John Shishmanian Norwich, Conn. — Barbara Izzarelli, of Norwich, would like to take a long vacation. If she gets even half of what a court awarded her Wednesday, she can stay as long as she wants.

The former smoker was awarded $15.7 million in interest payments as part of her lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Federal Judge Stefan Underhill handed down the decision, acting on a motion made in December from Izzarelli’s lawyer, David Golub.

“I’m pretty happy,” Izzarelli said Thursday. “I want to take a vacation. Hawaii looks great after all this snow.”

Underhill rejected claims by North Carolina-based R.J. Reynolds that the interest was excessive. Interest is mandatory under the law and is designed to get defendants to accept reasonable settlement efforts, the New Haven judge said.

“Tobacco companies refuse to settle,” Golub said Thursday. “It’s a nationwide policy. And this is the price they pay.”
R.J. Reynolds, whose brands include Camel, Winston, Salem and Lucky Strike, is not giving up.

“We will appeal the entire case,” spokesman David Howard wrote an e-mail Thursday.

Izzarelli, who came down with larynx cancer after smoking cigarettes from the age of 12, first filed suit in 1999, two years after having her larynx removed. A settlement offer of $400,000 was made by the plaintiff in 2001, said Golub, whose practice is in Stamford.

Izzarelli won an $8 million award last year, the first victory over a cigarette maker in New England, according to Golub. The woman, now 50, claimed that R.J. Reynolds made a dangerous and defective product, designed cigarettes to addict users and acted with reckless disregard for consumer safety. The federal court jury in Bridgeport agreed.

Izzarelli, a member of Norwich Free Academy’s class of 1978 who never graduated, said she would like to provide more for her family, including her four children, after she is paid. R.J. Reynolds has yet to give her any money, Izzarelli said Thursday.

“They (my family) will be set for life,” she said, adding she was thrilled when Golub notified her by phone Wednesday.

Dr. Thomas Lesnik, a Norwich-based ear, nose and throat specialist, was one of the key witnesses in the case. Izzarelli breathes through a tube in her throat. She cannot eat solid food or smell.

Izzarelli originally won $13 million last May, but the amount was cut by $5 million when the jury decided that 58 percent of the guilt rested with R.J. Reynolds and 42 percent rested with Izzarelli.

Wednesday’s $15.7 million verdict is not the largest amount Golub has ever won in a single case, he said.
“No, it’s not the largest,” he said. “But it’s big.”

source: Associated Press

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