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R.J. Reynolds Ordered to Pay $80 Million by Jury

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Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. must pay $80 million to the daughter of a man who died of lung cancer 60 years after he started smoking as a teenager in the 1930s, a jury in Florida ruled.

The jury in Levy County yesterday awarded $8 million in compensatory damages and $72 million in punitive damages to Dianne Webb, the adult daughter of James Cayce Horner, who died at the age of 78 in 1996, according to court records and a statement from the law firm that won the case, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley.

“We’re disappointed with the jury’s decision in the matter and we will appeal,” David Howard, a company spokesman, said.

Reynolds American Inc., R.J. Reynolds’s Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based parent company, is the third-largest U.S. cigarette maker by market capitalization, behind Philip Morris International Inc. and Altria Group Inc.

An appeal might take about three years if the case goes to the Florida Supreme Court, Webb’s attorney Jim Gustafson said today in an interview.

“Tobacco always appeals,” Gustafson said.

Since February 2009, jurors in Florida have awarded than $310 million to smokers and their families. The plaintiffs in the cases sued after the Florida Supreme Court decertified a statewide smokers’ class action in 2006, Gustafson said.

Miami Verdict

The verdict comes four days after a Miami-Dade County jury decided in favor of Altria’s Philip Morris USA. That verdict was the eighth courtroom victory for tobacco companies in Florida since the end of August, Philip Morris said in a statement. The industry faces thousands of smoker-liability cases in Florida because of a decision by the state’s Supreme Court.

In the 2006 decision, the Florida high court ruled that smokers can’t sue as a class and overturned a $145 billion punitive-damages verdict in the case. The court said that former class members in the Engle case, named for lead plaintiff Howard Engle, can sue individually.

The case is Dianne Webb v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 382009CA001285, Florida Circuit Court (Levy County).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at schurch3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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