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Florida widow wins wrongful death suit against tobacco companies

Many of our readers have been aware of the dangers of tobacco their entire lives. The first report by the U.S. Surgeon General linking smoking to lung cancer was in 1964, and warnings have been on cigarette packages since the following year.

However, in the 1940s, most people weren't aware of the dangers or the addictiveness of cigarettes. Just last month, the Clay County, Florida, widow of a man who began smoking in 1941 as a teenager prevailed in her wrongful death lawsuit against tobacco giants R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris USA. The woman, whose 69-year-old husband died of lung cancer in 1994, was awarded $5 million by a Fourth Judicial Circuit jury.

As the one of the woman's attorneys said, "Any time you can walk out with a verdict in your client's favor, when the folks on the other side are the tobacco industry…that's a success."

The woman's suit, which claimed that her husband was so addicted to smoking that he continued even after his lung cancer diagnosis, is just one that has been brought against tobacco companies thanks to a 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision. That ruling in a class action suit brought by other Florida attorneys said that these companies were selling defective products and deliberately withheld information from consumers about their dangers and the potential for addiction.

One of the plaintiff's attorneys acknowledges that the tobacco companies will likely appeal the decision in this case, as they do most verdicts that go against them. He says that going up against these companies is a challenge because they have the "most efficient legal machine that mankind has ever seen."

When a loved one dies as the result of something he or she consumed or ingested in some way, family members may assume that they have no recourse against the manufacturer unless it was tampered with or contaminated in some way. However, there very well may be a legal precedent for holding the manufacturer or others liable. It may be advantageous to seek legal advice to help determine if you can seek justice on behalf of your loved one and compensation to help with financial burdens you may be facing in the wake of that loved one's death.

Source: The Gainesville Sun, "Clay County woman wins $5M verdict in tobacco suit" Carla Vianna, Apr. 16, 2014

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