R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co will not be able to appeal a 2009 verdict in which Mathilde Martin was awarded $3.3 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages for the death of her husband from lung cancer due to smoking Reynolds’ Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Reynolds appealed the verdict arguing that the company’s constitutional rights under due process had been violated and that the ruling could impact the thousands of cases against tobacco companies pending in Florida courts.
In the Martin lawsuit, the Pensacola state trial court jury found that Mathilde’s husband Benny, who started smoking in the 1940s before cigarette manufacturers started putting warning labels on cigarette packs, was 34 percent responsible for his death, while Reynolds was 66 percent responsible.
This lawsuit is one of 60 heard since Dr. Howard Engle filed a class action lawsuit in 1994 and won a $145 billion judgment against tobacco makers. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the award, and decided that smokers could not sue cigarette companies as a class, but could as individuals. The Florida high court upheld the jury’s findings in Engle case that nicotine is addictive, that smoking causes disease, that cigarettes are dangerous and defective, and that cigarette manufacturers have concealed the health effects caused by smoking. There are currently more than 75 more cases pending trial this year.