Court Awards $15 Million Against RJ Reynolds
KANSAS CITY, KS -- June 28, 2002 -- A U.S. District court in Kansas recently awarded $15 million in punitive damages against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, calling the company's conduct "highly blameworthy and deserving of significant punishment." The tobacco manufacturer "knowingly caused suffering for the sake of profit," Judge John W. Lungstrum wrote.
The case involved a smoker, David Burton, who became addicted to Camel cigarettes and lost both legs to tobacco-related peripheral vascular disease. In February, a jury had ordered R.J. Reynolds to pay Mr. Burton $196,416 for his medical expenses and lost wages. It also authorized punitive damages. In Kansas, a judge rather than a jury must decide the amount of punitive damages.
The Burton opinion comes on the heels of a California case in which R.J. Reynolds was fined $20 million for promoting tobacco ads aimed at youth. In May 2002, the company was also fined $14.8 million for illegally handing out more than 100,000 packs of free cigarettes on public grounds in Los Angeles.
For information about the health effects of tobacco, read about a Florida tobacco lawsuit concerning an ex-smoker with oral cancer and check the government web site, Tobacco Information and Prevention Source.