$7 million verdict, plus possible penalties, against RJR in trial for death of 50-year-old smoker
Clearwater, Fla. — Jurors on Wednesday awarded $7 million in compensatory damages to the family of a Florida man who died of lung cancer after decades of smoking, and they found RJ Reynolds potentially liable for damages -punitive interests for the part they played in his death. . Giambalvo vs. RJ Reynolds18-001663-CI-15.
The jury in Florida’s Sixth Circuit Court deliberated for two days before delivering its verdict, which found that Salvatore “Sam” Giambalvo’s 1999 death from lung cancer was caused by cigarette smoking and nicotine addiction. The compensation award includes $4 million for Giambalvo’s widow and $1 million for each of Giambalvo’s three children.
Giambalvo was a regular smoker at the age of 15 and smoked up to two and a half packs of cigarettes a day for decades, before his death from lung cancer at age 50. His family argues Reynolds, the makers of the cigarettes Giambalvo smoked for years, is responsible by selling a product he knew to be dangerous and addictive, and participating in a conspiracy to hide those dangers.
Wednesday’s verdict also found Reynolds potentially liable for punitive damages in the case, with a separate phase on penalties starting Thursday.
The lawsuit is one of thousands of so-called Engle offspring cases, class-action claims by Florida smokers against the nation’s tobacco companies. After a trial court verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the class, ruling that individual plaintiffs could only recover if they proved that the smoker at the heart of each case was addicted to the cigarettes that caused a sickness.
Beyond legal causation, the medical cause of Giambalvo’s cancer served as a core issue at trial. During Monday’s closings, Jones Day’s Frank Bayuk told jurors there were no medical treatment records that definitively linked Giambalvo’s lung cancer to smoking. Instead, he told jurors, when Giambalvo was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996, his wife took notes that said doctors diagnosed the disease as bronchoalveolar carcinoma, or BAC. , which is not related to smoking.
“You have heard that she worked for a long time as a medical transcriptionist. His job was to take what doctors say and write it down verbatim,” Bayuk said. “And that’s exactly what she did twice, again, before any trial was contemplated.”
But Gary Paige of Gordon & Partners argued that doctors considered, but did not definitively diagnose, BAC during Giambalvo’s first cancer test. In contrast, he pointed to the experts who later reviewed Giambalvo’s medical records and concluded that his cancer was not BAC but rather adenocarcinoma caused by smoking.
“That’s really all we need to say,” Paige told jurors. “We brought you two more than qualified witnesses… all they do is lung cancer, and they both came to court, they told you there was no doubt in their minds that it was lung cancer from smoking.”
The closing of the punitive phase of the trial is expected to end late Thursday afternoon, with the jury beginning deliberations on Thursday or Friday. CVN will update this article as events warrant.
Email Arlin Crisco at [email protected].
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