A $23.6 billion jury verdict on Friday against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. RAI –1.82% represents the latest in a string of blows against the tobacco industry in Florida, the last major hub of tobacco litigation in the U.S.
The award is almost certain to be cut down significantly either by the judge in the case or on appeal, legal experts said. Still, the verdict sends a message to the industry that the public continues to find it responsible for smoking-related illnesses and deaths.
“There are real risks for the industry here,” said Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University who chairs the school’s Tobacco Products Liability Project. “There’s presumably nothing about this case that is so special that it couldn’t be replicated in many cases in the future.”