Appeals Court Upholds $35 Million Escambia County Tobacco Verdict

October 12, 2017

Though it raised concerns about a jury instruction, a state appeals court Wednesday upheld a nearly $35 million Escambia County verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the death of a longtime smoker.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Colette O’Hara, who filed the lawsuit in Escambia County after the death of her husband, Garry O’Hara. A jury awarded $14.7 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages.

R.J. Reynolds appealed on a series of grounds, but Wednesday’s ruling focused heavily on the propriety of a jury instruction sought by Colette O’Hara’s attorneys. The instruction involved an issue about whether Garry O’Hara relied on tobacco-company advertisements.

The appeals court found problems with the instruction but concluded it couldn’t determine whether the instruction affected the jury’s decision.

“We do not disagree that the instruction may have unduly swayed some jurors in favor of O’Hara,” said the nine-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Scott Makar and joined by judges Clay Roberts and Harvey Jay. “But we cannot determine from the record whether this effect on the jury was the cause of prejudice to RJR.”

by The News Service of Florida


11 Responses to “Appeals Court Upholds $35 Million Escambia County Tobacco Verdict”

  1. Trocarman on October 13th, 2017 5:53 am

    Everyone knows cigarettes cause cancer. The US government should outlaw cigarettes. Yes, I have heard the stories ( from smokers) people get lung cancer who did not smoke, somebody lived to be 100 who smoked for 90 years did not die from lung cancer, etc., etc. As far as the law suits go, they should be thrown out. Shut RJR down.

  2. anne 1of2 on October 12th, 2017 8:11 pm

    Tobacco was always the #1 crop when I lived in TN. Everyone rolled their own if they grew it and they are still smoking too. The chemicals added are like any others added to a product.. Just read the additives in processed foods. What are we going to do? Sue every corporation for every additive? These cases are insane!

  3. Dennis HE Wiggins on October 12th, 2017 6:00 pm

    Child Smoker hit the nail on the head. It’s not about who chose to smoke. It’s about the fact that RJR and other companies hid facts like they had “enhanced” the products with additives that made them addictive and they KNEW years ago it may cause cancer, but they never told the public until their hand was forced. They need to pay for those deceptive practices.

  4. Child Smoker on October 12th, 2017 1:42 pm

    Not all affected by smoke choose this. My dad smoked and my childhood was filled with respiratory issues- pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma. When I moved away from home, my health improved significantly. I still worry about getting cancer from the 18 years of exposure to this carcinogenic. Dad believed all the ads that smoking was great while the tobacco companies hid the fact that their product caused cancer. He died of lung cancer.

  5. EMD on October 12th, 2017 12:41 pm

    As usual…..Put the blame on someone other than the one responsible. The Chlorox company makes bleach. If I drink it, I may die. Does that make the company responsible? Do guns shoot people? Do pencils make us write down wrong answers on a test? Do spoons and forks make us over eat. What is wrong with people??? OH YEAH! I just remembered …………It’s a heart problem, and only God can change that………..and only by HIS Way (Jesus), not our way, or the way of religion. I wonder just how long God is going to put up with our foolishness and dishonesty.

  6. Howie on October 12th, 2017 12:29 pm

    All the comments here are great. Smokers, ex-smokers, drinkers, ex-drinkers, and absolutely no one made you do it. Instead of making R J Reynolds Tobacco Co pay out the awarded money, make the Government pay it. They tax it enough and that actually is saying it’s okay to drink or smoke so we can collect revenue when you purchase a pack of smokes or case of beer.

    These types of lawsuits are totally ludicrous. I hope this winning family enjoys the money that don’t belong to them. It won’t return to them their loved one who smoked their life away. The advertisements are on TV every day about smoking, so you can’t say you were not warned of a hazard. Check with your Doctor. He will advise you of the same hazards. So while people first become ill and smoking or alcohol is being blamed, you can’t say you are not warned to STOP SMOKING or STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL long before your death. But what proof is there to say smoking or alcohol is the blame???? People die of something, so the blame is on habit that’s within a person’s lifestyle.

  7. Sage2 on October 12th, 2017 11:51 am

    There are from time to time many folks that give rational, realistic statements on NE.
    With reference to smoking and the BIG payout, this happens to be one of those rare days!
    Remember, the lawyers also get a big slice of this too.

  8. Hilda Malone on October 12th, 2017 11:14 am

    This is wrong and that is all that it is to it . The people in this country have gone crazy to even think of doing this .

  9. bartender on October 12th, 2017 9:00 am

    my idea is why dont they just making them and done with it.if its so bad for an x smoker of 30 yrs and i have copd .it was my stupied choice to smoke so why should that woman get all that money over one smoker? that was his choice to smoke. just like drinking,no one makes you do it.they money should be used in other ways.helping the poor feeding the homeless,helping the that are fightin g cancer should get the money for treatments. stupied judges should through it out of court. they sell them every minute so why sue them? the gov depends on that money where it kills you or not.they dont care.

  10. Donna on October 12th, 2017 8:44 am

    There should not be any compensation from tobacco use saying it was the cause of death or caused an illness resulting in death. Smoking is a choice and you have a choice to smoke or not to smoke. Nobody sits there with a gun to your head telling you to smoke. Any court awarded money for this reason is ridiculous. All of you better be glad I didn’t serve as a juror in the original ruling. Oh how badly I want to get in on one of these cases and I don’t smoke. I would not rule in favor of any money being awarded. It is what it is.

    People who smoke have greater risk of lung cancer – true. People who don’t smoke can get lung cancer too – true. So, I guess those that don’t smoke can blame it on those that do smoke when they die of lung cancer. Families of all of you that have smoked or still smoking with COPD and Emphysema file a lawsuit to get a few million dollars when you die. That’s the picture painted here in the court system.

    Where are the court awarded monies for alcohol use? People die every day from hardened livers due to alcohol. You see there is no difference in tobacco use or alcohol use. They are bad habits and should be left as that. No money for a bad habit.

    Just another hole in the system that needs fixing. The Judges needed something to do.

    R J Reynolds I’m sorry you have been stuck with a payout such as this.

    By the way, I don’t smoke but my husband does. Maybe I should bring on a court case if and when he dies. Sounds like a great plan to me.

    Oh and please rely on the tobacco warning advertisements. That’s the issue for this appeals court hearing. Again, another way to cost us taxpayers !

  11. Bama on October 12th, 2017 4:58 am

    This is so wrong I’m more ways I can count, as a ex smoker no one ever forced me to smoke. He /her done it on their own.

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