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RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company To Pay Widow Of Lung Cancer Victim 13.8 Billion

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A US cigarette company has been ordered to pay the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer $23.6 billion (£13.8 billion) in punitive damages.

Cynthia Robinson launched a lawsuit against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company in 2008 arguing they failed to adequately inform customers of the risks associated with smoking.

Her husband, Michael Johnson Sr, died in 1996 aged 36 after becoming hooked on cigarettes and failing to quit despite many attempts.

A Florida court ordered the RJ Reynolds - the US' second largest cigarette producer - to pay the massive punitive fine on top of $16.8m (£9.8m) in compensatory damages.

Robinson's lawyer Willie Gary said: "RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards.

"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."

RJ Reynolds have said they will appeal against the verdict.

The damages are the second largest amount awarded in an individual case stemming from a class action lawsuit in the state.

RJ Reynolds vice president said in a statement: "This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness, and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented.

"We plan to file post-trial motions with the trial court promptly, and are confident that the court will follow the law and not allow this runaway verdict to stand."

An earlier Florida court ruling that decided smokers and their relatives only had to prove they were addicted and cigarettes had caused their illness has paved the way for such lawsuits.

A number of similar cases have been heard but none with such sums of money being awarded.

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