S.C. affirms Florida families’ wrongful death awards

Historically, lawsuits against the manufacturers of cigarettes in the United States have been tough to win. Some Florida families have experienced this difficulty firsthand, even when they have been able to show that tobacco companies knew the dangers of their products. For those who have lost loved ones to lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases, however, the fight against manufactures was always worth the effort.

Recently, justice seems to have been served for 11 Florida families who filed and won lawsuits against cigarette makers but who were denied immediate satisfaction when the tobacco companies stalled payments through years of appeals. In early June, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered tobacco companies to pay the families nearly $40 million in damages plus interest for product liability, wrongful death and other violations. The Court has given the tobacco companies just 30 days to pay all financial judgments.

In one of the affected cases, Lorillard Tobacco was ordered to pay $15 million plus interest to the family of an Edgewater woman who died of lung cancer in 1994. According to her family, she had been addicted to one particular Lorillard brand of unfiltered cigarette since she was a teenager. When her three children won their wrongful death lawsuit against Lorillard in 2011, the jury awarded them $15 million, determining that the victim bore 35 percent of the responsibility for her lung cancer and the tobacco company 65 percent.

Nothing can be more devastating than the loss of a family member due to the negligence or carelessness of a company that is supposed to warn and protect consumers from the serious hazards in their products. In the cases recently decided by the Supreme Court, the wrongful death lawsuits not only helped the families receive compensation they deserve but also allowed them to cope with their tragic stories.

Source: News-Journal, “Appeals exhausted, Big Tobacco must play $15 million to family of dead Volusia smoker,” Frank Fernandez, June 16, 2014

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