Bronson, Florida –(November 15, 2010). Florida law firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA announced today that a jury has awarded $80 million to the daughter of an Engle class member who died from lung cancer after a sixty year addiction to nicotine in the cigarettes of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
James Cayce Horner died at the age of 78 in 1996 after a long battle against lung cancer. He began smoking as a teenager, in the 1930s, during a time when R.J. Reynolds and other cigarette manufacturers openly marketed cigarettes to children and teenagers. Despite several losses of close family members due to the catastrophic effects of cigarettes—including the lung cancer death of his wife in 1993—Horner was unable to overcome his sixty year, two pack-a-day addiction to cigarettes. He smoked until his death.
With both of her parents lost to lung cancer, it fell to Mr. Horner’s daughter, Dianne Webb, to vindicate Mr. Horner’s rights as a member of the landmark Engle class action, which paved the way for thousands of Florida smokers and their families to seek justice for the ravages of cigarettes. There are over 8,000 such suits pending in the courts of Florida.
The jury awarded Mrs. Webb $8,000,000 for the wrongful death of Mr. Horner and imposed punitive damages in the amount of $72,000,000. The jury found that Horner was ten percent responsible for his death and that R.J. Reynolds was 90 percent responsible.
Plaintiff’s attorney, David Sales stated, that the plaintiff proved, largely through internal documents from R.J. Reynolds’ own files, that for the entire period of Mr. Horner’s life, R.J. Reynolds and other cigarette makers manipulated both their products and public awareness of the risks of cigarettes to keep addicted smokers smoking. R.J. Reynolds did not publicly admit that cigarettes caused lung cancer, or that nicotine is addictive until 2000, long after Mr. Horner was dead.
R.J. Reynolds’ defense focused on Mr. Horner’s choices, including his decision to smoke and his failure to stop smoking. The company accepted no responsibility throughout the trial. The company’s lawyers also suggested that Mrs. Webb and her family members had lied about Horner’s smoking history. According to James Gustafson, of Searcy Denney, “This jury obviously rejected the decades-old deceit of the corporate liar and acknowledged that R.J. Reynolds’ choices were motivated by nothing but unbridled greed.”
“The truth about this industry remains an eye-opening tale of arrogance and disdain for public health,” said David Sales, who tried the case with Gustafson “People need to be reminded, again and again, of the true cost—in precious human life—that R.J. Reynolds has imposed and continues to impose on our society.” This was the firm’s fourth Engle trial and fourth victory, according to Sales.