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Florida widow wins $23.6 billion in RJ Reynolds tobacco payout

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gary-suitby Dr. Boyce Watkins

In a lawsuit of epic proportions, a Florida jury has awarded a widow a stunning $23.6 billion dollars in a verdict against RJ Reynolds Tobacco.  The case is significant, not only because of the dollar amount, but also because it may affect millions of others who’ve seen their lives come to an end due to smoking-related illnesses.

The punitive damages were supplemented by another $16 million dollar award to the estate of Michael Johnson Sr.  The trial lasted four weeks, during which Cynthia Robinson sued the company for negligence due to their failure to warn consumers of the dangers of smoking.  As a result, Johnson became ill with lung cancer and eventually died.

The man tried to quit smoking for years, and could not.  The verdict was announced in Escambia County after just 15 hours of deliberations.
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“RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards,” said Robinson’s lawyer Willie Gary said in a statement.

Willie Gary is one of the most respected African American lawyers in the country.  He is often compared to the late Johnny Cochran for his ability to win massive verdicts, in many cases on behalf of black plantiffs.  He is also known for being a tremendous benefactor for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“As a result of their negligence, my client’s husband suffered from lung cancer and eventually lost his life,” Gary said.

“We hope that this verdict will send a message to RJ Reynolds and other big tobacco companies that will force them to stop putting the lives of innocent people in jeopardy.”

Of course the company plans to appeal, since a verdict of this size could bankrupt the organization.

Vice president and assistant general counsel J. Jeffery Raborn said that the verdict was “far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness.”

This lawsuit may be just the beginning of the company’s worries.  Over half a million Americans die from smoking-related illnesses every year, according to health experts.   About 18 percent of Americans smoke today, which is a drop from 42 percent during the 1960s.

READ MORE via Financial Juneteenth | Florida widow wins $23.6 billion in RJ Reynolds tobacco payout.