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Florida Jury Awards $23.6B Verdict in Big Tobacco Lawsuit

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company must pay $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in one of the largest wrongful death verdicts for a single plaintiff in Florida state history, according to attorneys. A state jury awarded the punitive damages Friday to the estate of Michael Johnson Sr., who died in 1996 from lung cancer after years of chain smoking, attorney Christopher Chestnut told NBC News. Johnson's estate previously won a $17 million verdict as compensation for his family’s loss.

“This jury sent a message and gave 23.6 billion reasons why you can’t lie to consumers,” said Chestnut, who along with attorney Willie Gary represent 400 cases in Florida against Big Tobacco companies. R.J. Reynolds is the maker of Pall Mall and Camel cigarettes.

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