Court Rejects $18.5M Award In Smoker’s Death
A South Florida appeals court Wednesday said an $18.5 million damages award against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was excessive in a lawsuit filed by the daughter of a woman who died of lung cancer.
A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered that a circuit judge consider reducing the amount or hold a new trial on damages. The Palm Beach County case was filed against the tobacco company by Gwendolyn Odom, whose mother, Juanita Thurston, died of lung cancer in 1993 after smoking cigarettes.
The case is one of thousands in Florida known as "Engle progeny" cases. Such cases are linked to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers. In the Odom case, a jury found R.J. Reynolds at fault and awarded $6 million in compensatory damages. That amount was reduced to $4.5 million, because Thurston was held to be 25 percent responsible for her illness, according to Wednesday's ruling.
The jury also awarded $14 million in punitive damages. But the appeals court said the compensatory-damage award was excessive for a case brought by the adult child of a dead smoker. It rejected the compensatory-damage award and, as an extension, the amount of punitive damages.