Florida Jury Snaps Tobacco’s Recent Winning Streak with an $80 Million Award Against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –  Contact: Edward L. Sweda, Jr. or Mark Gottlieb (617) 373-2026 or (617) 373-8462.

A Bronson, Florida (Levy County) jury today awarded $8 million in compensatory damages and another $72 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for its role in the lung cancer death of James Kayce Horner. Mr. Horner, who started smoking at the age of 17 in 1934 (decades before warning labels appeared on cigarette packages), smoked for over 60 years before dying of lung cancer on March 11, 1996, at the age of 78.

The jury determined that R.J. Reynolds had 90% responsibility for Mr. Horner’s death, and Mr. Horner 10%. Plaintiffs have now won 21 out of 32 Engle Progeny cases that have reached a verdict since February 2009. After eight consecutive defense verdicts in trials since August 2010, this jury clearly rejected the arguments made by defense law firm Jones Day.

Diane Webb, Mr. Horner’s daughter, is the plaintiff in a wrongful death action against the makers of Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, Kool, Camel and Winston – the brands Mr. Horner smoked. Ms. Webb is represented by the West Palm Beach firm of Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. Attorney James Gustafson can be reached at 800-780-8607.

Attorney Gustafson told the jury that Mr. Horner was addicted to the drug nicotine, and that his addiction was why he sucked in cigarette smoke from 40 cigarette per day for 60 years. He smoked to avoid the withdrawal from nicotine.

Senior Attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law (TPLP), Edward L. Sweda, Jr. was delighted with the verdict: “This jury was justifiably appalled by what it learned about R.J. Reynolds’ outrageous misconduct during the decades that James Kayce Horner was an addicted customer. Today’s verdict is proportionate to that reprehensible wrongdoing by the company.”

TPLP Director, Mark Gottlieb, noted that, “while the tobacco companies have won a string of verdicts in recent weeks after a much longer string of defeats, this verdict shows that they clearly have their work cut out for them as they battle thousands of individual trials in Florida. ”

The Tobacco Products Liability Project is a project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA.  It is an independent federally recognized non-profit charity.

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About Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb joined the staff of the Public Health Advocacy Institute in 1993 after graduating from Northeastern University School of Law. His efforts have focused on researching tobacco litigation as a public health strategy as director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, reducing the harm caused by secondhand tobacco smoke through a variety of legal and policy approaches, fostering scholarship using tobacco industry documents, and, more recently, examining legal and policy approaches to address obesity. He is the Executive Director of the Institute and lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife and three children.