Tobacco award thrown out for widow of Ocala man

An appeals court on Tuesday overturned the ruling, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company to pay $ 40.8 million penalty to the widow of man Ocala, who died of lung cancer after smoking the company’s cigarettes.

The decision of the 1st District Court of Appeal may have implications for flooding, smoking-related lawsuits moving through the Florida courts. Despite the punitive damages decision, the appellate court upheld the jury an additional $ 10.8 million “compensatory” damages in the 1995 death of Frank Townsend - the largest number of supported him in this case.

Three-judge panel found that $ 40.8 million penalty handed to the widow of Townsend, Lyantie, was “constitutionally excessive.” He ruled that the case be sent back to Alachua County court, where it was originally heard, so that the jury or the judge may award a lower amount of punitive damages.
In the decision the judge has repeatedly criticized the cigarette manufacturer, stating that it “is replete with evidence of many years of senseless and wanton conduct RJR” in the marketing of products knew it was addictive, hidden danger to the health and deceive the public.

The fact is, one of the thousands of lawsuits against tobacco companies, arising from the 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision. This solution is defined such claims should be heard separately and not as a class action, but it also established the critical conclusions about the health risks of smoking and the misrepresentation of cigarettes.

An important issue in those cases - known as “Engle progeny” cases - is the amount of damages that tobacco companies may be forced to pay.
As an example, the 1st District Court of Appeal heard arguments in October in a case in which a Levy County jury awarded $72 million in punitive damages and $7.2 million in compensatory damages to the daughter of a dead smoker. That case remains pending.

The ruling on Tuesday said that the Townsends were married for 39 years before her husband died at the age of 59. He said Lyantie Townsend care of her husband as he lay dying in the last six months of his life and that his death would have “an acute effect on (his wife) for life.”

The jury in 2010 determined that the case is justified $ 80 million penalty and $ 10.8 million in damages to compensate for Lyantie Townsend on issues such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

The actual amount that the widow receives, however, were reduced to $ 40.8 million penalty and $ 5.5 million in damages because the jury determined that Frank Townsend 49 percent to blame for his death, and RJ Reynolds was 51 percent of guilt.

While the compensatory damage amount was reduced, the ruling on Tuesday focused on the total $ 10.8 million verdict. Divided three-judge whether this amount should be satisfied with the judges, William Van Nortwick and Simone Marstiller its approval, and T. Kent Wetherell said that it was excessive.

Wetherell wrote that the amount of $ 10.8 million “shocks the judicial conscience of mine.”

“I have no doubt that (the widow), suffering from the loss of her husband is a real and substantial, and … I’ll admit that these types of injuries are inherently difficult to measure, and that the problem that, as a rule, remains on the jury,” Wetherell wrote. “Nevertheless, the jury did not have complete freedom of action to include widows lifelong smokers decamillionaires simply because RJR is a” deep-pocket defendant, and contemporary popular villain and economic losses are difficult to measure. “

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