Florida smoker's widow: $23B damages is a message to Big Tobacco, even if verdict won't stand

Markets Associated Press

A Florida widow awarded $23.6 billion in the death of her chain-smoking husband says the massive verdict is a message to Big Tobacco.

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Legal experts and industry analysts say the punitive damages — $23,623,718,906.62, to be precise — almost certainly will be significantly reduced on appeal, if not thrown out entirely. In another major tobacco trial, a $28 billion verdict in a 2002 case in Los Angeles turned into $28 million after appeals.

But Cynthia Robinson of Pensacola says the figure almost doesn't matter. Her husband started smoking at 13 and died of lung cancer at 36. She says R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has to own up to what happened to her husband. Legal experts say she probably won't see much of the money.

The tobacco company plans to appeal.