Supreme Court Cracks Down on This Tobacco Company

The Supreme Court said Monday it would not hear an appeal by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (NYSE:RAI) in a 2009 Florida case in which the company was ordered to pay $28.3 million to a woman whose husband died after years of smoking its cigarettes.

The court denied the firm’s request for an appeal after R.J. argued that its right to due process had been violated and that the issue could affect thousands of pending cases in Florida against tobacco companies.

In the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Mathilde Martin Supreme Court case, Martin was awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages after her husband Benny died in 1995 of lung cancer, something she attributed to his smoking of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

The suit stemmed from a class-action filed in 1994 by the late Dr. Howard Engle, producing a $145 billion judgment against cigarette makers six years down the line. The cases were filed by sick Florida smokers or relatives.

The case was later overturned in 2006, but the court upheld the trial jury’s findings about the dangers of tobacco and that companies concealed the negative health effects of smoking.

R.J. Reynolds argued in its appeal that the Martin case precluded litigation of issues that had not been decided during the Engle suit, violating the company’s right to due process.

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