The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, Florida just reversed a multi-million dollar judgment against a tobacco company.
When Diane Webb's father, James Horner, passed away from lung cancer, Webb brought a wrongful death suit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. In the lawsuit, she accused Reynolds of fraud by concealment and negligence.
The case was prompted by a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2006, that authorized individual suits against cigarette manufacturers.
Horner smoked most of his life. He began smoking at age 17, and regularly smoked brands manufactured or acquired by Reynolds.
After a trial, the jury awarded Webb $7.2 million in compensatory damages and $72 million in punitive damages. It found Reynolds to be 90 percent at fault, and Horner to be 10 percent at fault for his death.
On appeal, the court found the judgment to be unsupported by the evidence. In its ruling the court said, "the compensatory damages award is more than the evidence at trial reasonably support and shocks the judicial conscience."
The court continued, "our research has failed to uncover a single case in which an adult child received a wrongful death award of this magnitude that was affirmed on appeal."
The court then remanded the case for a new trial.
Counsel for Reynolds said in a statement that this case proves "trial courts are obligated to exclude evidence and arguments that are meant to inflame the jury, particularly when they bear no relationship to the defendant's products."