by Frances Robles
MIAMI — A jury in northwestern Florida awarded a staggering $23 billion judgment late Friday against the country’s second-largest tobacco company for causing the death of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer at the age of 36.
The company, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, promised a prompt appeal.
Michael Johnson Sr. died in 1996 after smoking for more than 20 years. In 2006, his widow, Cynthia Robinson, of Pensacola, sued R. J. Reynolds the maker of the Kool brand cigarettes her husband had smoked, arguing that the company had deliberately concealed the health hazards its product caused.
The four-week trial ended Wednesday. The jury deliberated for 18 hours over two days, first awarding $17 million in compensatory damages and then emerging at 10 p.m. Friday with a $23.6 billion punitive judgment.
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