By John Nickerson, Stamford Advocate, STAMFORD, CT (December 25, 2018) — Barbara Izzarelli began smoking when she was 12 years old and claims the maker of Salem Kings cigarettes marketed to minors and manipulated nicotine levels to make them more addictive, according to her lawsuit against the tobacco company.
An addiction that lasted 25 years caused the former Connecticut resident to suffer cancer of the larynx. Izzarelli, who has trouble breathing and speaks through a voice box, has had a dozen surgeries to her larynx and esophagus. The 58-year-old who now lives in Florida was so addicted to cigarettes that she even tried smoking through the tracheal tube in her throat.
Now she’s waiting for R. J. Reynolds tobacco company to pay up.
With the help of David Golub, a partner with Sliver Golub & Teitell in Stamford, Izzarelli stands to collect $52.4 million from the North Carolina tobacco company.
“She is elated,” Golub said. “She has been waiting a long time to get where she is.”
A federal jury in Connecticut initially awarded Izzarelli $7.9 million in 2010. Judge Stefan Underhill awarded Izzarelli another $3.9 million in punitive damages. Prejudgment interest increased that amount to $36.43 million.
Golub said the jury in 2010 found R.J. Reynolds 58 percent liable for Izzarelli’s health issues. Izzarelli, a former Norwich resident, was found to be 42 percent liable.
While R.J. Reynolds continues to appeal, Underwill recently increased the punitive damages to $8 million, calling the tobacco company “reprehensible.”
Mark Belasic, an attorney representing R.J. Reynolds, did not respond to a call for comment this week. The company has until Jan. 13 to file additional documents to try to overturn the decision.
“This is not a product seller making a mistake. This is not an innocent product that ends up hurting someone,” Golub said. “This was reprehensible conduct.”