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Florida jury awards husband damages in wife's smoking death

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 21 October 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:977
  1. Fred Charatan
  1. Florida

    A widower was awarded $200000 (£142 000) damages in a court in Tampa, Florida, last week for the death from lung and colon cancer of his 62 year old wife in 1995.

    Mrs Suzanne Jones smoked a packet of Pall Mall, Winston, Vantage, or Carlton cigarettes every day for 43 years. The cigarettes were manufactured by R J R Reynolds, the second largest tobacco company in the United States.

    A jury of five men and one woman, after six weeks of testimony and a day and a half of deliberations, awarded Mr Robert Jones $141000 in medical costs and $59000 for loss of his wife's companionship.

    The jury found that R J R Reynolds was negligent in failing to warn Mrs Jones of the dangers of smoking before 1969 and in being responsible for defective cigarette design that contributed to her death. However, no conspiracy to defraud on the part of the company was found; hence no compensatory or punitive damages were awarded.

    Mr Jones, aged 70, a former smoker himself, has emphysema and used an oxygen cylinder in court. He chose to opt out of the class action suit brought in 1994 on behalf of 300000 to 700000 smokers in Florida. That lawsuit resulted in $145bn damages against five major US tobacco companies (22 July, p 193)

    Embedded Image

    R J R Reynolds was considered negligent in not warning Suzanne Jones of the dangers of smoking

    (Credit: AP PHOTO/CP, HO)

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