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.
That one will certainly be appealed, but this one won’t:
New York City has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the December 2012 death of a prisoner at Rikers Island after he suffered what the city medical examiner’s office concluded was “blunt force trauma” to the head.
The inmate, Ronald Spear, 52, had kidney problems and walked with a cane, according to the lawsuit. The medical examiner’s office ruled that the manner of death was homicide.
The settlement is one of the largest paid by the city in recent years to resolve a lawsuit alleging violence against an inmate. Two years ago, the city agreed to pay $2 million to settle a case stemming from the 2008 fatal assault on Christopher Robinson, an 18-year-old inmate who was said to have been beaten by other prisoners who were enlisted by correction officers to help control his unit.
The settlement also comes at a time of heightened focus on violence in city jails, including a recent New York Times report that documented 129 cases of inmates who were seriously injured over the course of 11 months in 2013 after violent encounters with correction officers. A copy of the settlement agreement was obtained by The Times.
It’s a settlement, not a jury award. Sad, sad case.