A Florida jury has handed a client of two African-American law firms one of the biggest legal victories ever.
Last week, a Pensacola jury awarded Cynthia Robinson over $16 billion in compensatory damages and $23 billion in punitive damages in her lawsuit against R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Robinson was represented by Florida attorneys Willie E. Gary and Christopher Chestnut of The Chestnut Firm. Robinson sued R. J. Reynolds in 2008 on behalf of her late husband, Michael Johnson, who at 35 years old died of cancer in 1996. Robinson claimed smoking cigarettes killed her husband, who began smoking when he was 13. According to his lawyers, Johnson became addicted to cigarettes and was unable to quit smoking despite numerous attempts to stop.
She argued that R. J. Reynolds was negligent in not informing him and other smokers that nicotine is addictive and that smoking can cause lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths among black men, according to the American Cancer Society.
Robinson had been part of a class-action lawsuit in which a jury awarded $145 billion in damages against tobacco companies. In 2006, however, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the verdict. The court did open the door for individual lawsuits against tobacco companies. Robinson sued R. J. Reynolds as an individual six years ago.