A Florida jury has returned one of the largest verdicts ever against a tobacco company. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has been ordered to pay a chain smoker’s widow $23.6 billion in punitive damages.
On Friday a Pensacola jury awarded the hefty damages to Cynthia Robinson, whose husband Michael Johnson died of lung cancer at age 36 after chain smoking since the age of 13.
Robinson’s case is one of thousands of individual cases filed in Florida in response to the Supreme Court tossing out a $145 billion class action verdict in 2006. That ruling said that smokers’ families and smokers need only prove addiction or that smoking caused their illness or death.
“First, I heard millions,” “I didn’t know it was “b” with-a-b-billions. I still can’t believe it.”
“They concealed information that was harmful to a human for years and still to this day have not admitted they were wrong,” Robinson told NBC news in an exclusive interview. She says she still puts flowers on her husband’s grave on birthdays, Christmas and Father’s Day. She says he would be proud.
“He would say, ‘We did it. We did it.’ The time has come and someone had to start somewhere and it started with me and Michael Johnson,” added Robinson.
The verdict sends a powerful message to tobacco companies, and already the nation's No. 2 cigarette maker is vowing to fight the ruling. Watch Robinson’s interview here: