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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds First Jury Verdict against Tobacco Company in New England History

February 28, 2018

STAMFORD, CT (February 27, 2018) – The United States Supreme Court has refused to review the decision by the Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit, thereby upholding the $28.1 million jury verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for damages sustained by an injured Connecticut smoker, Barbara Izzarelli, formerly of Norwich, CT. As a result of the Supreme Court’s refusal, the case will now return to court for additional punitive damages.

“Barbara Izzarelli has fought long and hard against R.J. Reynolds, which targeted her with a product that was specifically designed to addict her,” said David S. Golub of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, who represented Ms. Izzarelli. “Although it will not bring back her health, this ruling does give her a final victory. It also serves to give notice to tobacco companies that juries will reject their claims that minors made a ‘free choice’ to begin smoking. In fact, they will impose on these companies substantial damages – including punitive damages – for targeting minors and setting nicotine doses to create addiction.”

This is the first smoker’s case to come to trial in Connecticut and the first jury verdict ever returned against a tobacco company in New England history.

A federal court jury had awarded Ms. Izzarelli $7.9 million after a 14-day trial in Bridgeport federal court in May 2010 before Federal District Court Judge Stefan Underhill. Judge Underhill awarded punitive damages in the amount of $3.9 million and prejudgment interest increased the total judgment to $28.1 million.

Ms. Izzarelli developed larynx cancer after smoking Salem cigarettes for more than 25 years. She was forced to undergo surgery at age 36 that resulted in the removal of her larynx and requires her to breathe through a hole in her throat. She cannot breathe through her nose or mouth, has no sense of smell and can only eat soft foods.

Ms. Izzarelli, who now lives in Holly Hill, FL, began smoking Salem cigarettes in the early 1970s when she was 12 years old and continued to smoke into her mid-30s. Evidence in the trial established that Reynolds had undertaken a campaign at that time to market Salems to minors in order to establish a long-term customer base. Evidence also established that Reynolds had designed Salem cigarettes with a set level of nicotine that would provide a daily dose of nicotine above the threshold for nicotine addiction.

The jury held that the Salem cigarettes, manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, were unreasonably dangerous and defectively designed. The jury also ruled that Reynolds had acted with reckless disregard for the safety of consumers.

About Silver Golub & Teitell LLP
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Silver Golub & Teitell LLP is one of the leading trial law firms in Connecticut, focusing on plaintiff’s-side complex civil litigation.  The firm’s cases have had a significant impact on diverse areas of both state and national law.

David Golub
Silver Golub & Teitell LLP
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Randy Savicky
Silver Golub & Teitell LLP

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