U.S. Jury Orders Tobacco Firm to Pay Billions to Widow

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 longtime chain smoker who died of lung cancer at age 36.

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

The headquarters of Reynolds American is seen next to the old R.J. Reynolds Tobacco smoke stacks from a previous manufacturing plant in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina on May 23, 2014. /Reuters The headquarters of Reynolds American is seen next to the old R.J. Reynolds Tobacco smoke stacks from a previous manufacturing plant in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina on May 23, 2014. /Reuters

Cynthia Robinson sued Reynolds in 2008 on behalf of her late husband, Michael Johnson. She claimed the company conspired to conceal the health dangers and addictive nature of its products. Johnson had smoked for more than 20 years, beginning when he was about 13 years old and his widow said he had tried several times to quit. 

Reynolds plans to appeal the court decision.

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

VOA News / Jul. 21, 2014 08:17 KST