After a three week trial, a jury here in Jacksonville awarded the survivors of a woman that died from a smoking related illness $17 million. The award was comprised of $6m in compensatory damages and $11.3 million in punitive damages.
The woman developed lung cancer after smoking cigarettes since age 16 in 1946. The plaintiff’s claims focused on allegations that the cigarette manufacturer ignored health concerns while marketing their product as glamorous.
Jacksonville has been at the forefront of tobacco litigation before. In 2001, an Orange Park man was the first person to be paid by a tobacco company for personal injuries attributed to cigarette smoking. That payment followed a jury verdict in favor of the man in 1996 and several appeals.
Central to these cases is the application of Florida law on comparative negligence, which reduces a plaintiff’s recovery by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. In yesterday’s verdict, the jurors found the woman to have been 35% to blame for smoking despite health warnings. The tobacco company was found to be 65% at fault. In accordance with Florida law, the recovery for pain and suffering was, thus, reduced by 35%.
So far, the majority of the sucessful cases against the tobacco companies have been brought by persons who began smoking before health warnings were required to be placed on each package of cigarettes. Persons who began smoking after that time will probably have a harder time deflecting comparative negligence arguments by the tobacco companies.
If you have any questions regarding a personal injury or product liability claim, please contact our Jacksonville injury and accident attorneys for a free consultation.