US Jury Orders Tobacco Firm to Pay Billions to Widow

21 July, 2014

A jury in the southeastern U.S. state of Florida has ordered the country's second largest cigarette maker to pay $23.6 billion to the widow of a smoker.

The jury also ordered the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company to pay $16.8 million in compensatory damages.

Cynthia Robinson sued the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds in 2008 for the death of her late husband, Michael Johnson. Mr. Johnson was a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer at age 36.

His widow claimed the tobacco company plotted to hide the health dangers of their products. She said the company kept secret the fact that it is very hard to quit smoking. This is called the "addictive nature" of tobacco products.

Mr. Johnson had smoked for more than 20 years. He began when he was about 13 years old. His widow said he had tried several times to quit.

The cigarette company plans to appeal the court decision.

US Jury Orders Tobacco Firm to Pay Billions to Widow
Cigarettes are displayed for sale, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Doral, Fla.

A lawyer for the cigarette maker said the size of the award went "far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness."

I'm Anna Matteo.