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Federal District Court Judge Adds $44 Million in Punitive Damages & Interest in First Smokers Case to Come to Trial in New England
December 17, 2018
STAMFORD, CT (December 17, 2018) – A Federal District Court judge has added more than $44 in million in punitive damages and interest against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the case of an injured Connecticut smoker, Barbara Izzarelli, formerly of Norwich, CT. Federal District Court Judge Stefan Underhill awarded Ms. Izzarelli $8 million in punitive damages and $36.4 million in offer of judgment interest. With the original compensatory damages award of $7.98 million, the total judgment is $52.4 million.
The case was the first smoker’s case to come to trial in Connecticut and was the first jury verdict ever returned against a tobacco company in New England history. Since the verdict in Ms. Izzarelli’s case, two juries in Massachusetts have also returned multi-million dollar verdicts against cigarette companies.
In support of the award of $8 million in punitive damages, Judge Underhill detailed the evidence Ms. Izzarelli presented at trial of R.J. Reynolds’ decades of product marketing misconduct in designing cigarettes to be addictive while publicly denying it. Then the judge expressly found that R.J. Reynolds’ conduct was “reprehensible.”
“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. “This ruling will not bring back her health, but it is an important step in holding R.J. Reynolds accountable for the harm it intentionally causes smokers like Ms. Izzarelli.”
Attorney Golub was assisted on the case by Silver Golub & Teitell partners Jonathan M. Levine and Marilyn J. Ramos.
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 Salem cigarettes 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. www.sgtlaw.com
Silver Golub & Teitell LLP
Silver Golub & Teitell LLP