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Levin Papantonio Law Firm Announces Tobacco Verdict: R.J. Reynolds Must Pay $9.2M to Florida Family


PENSACOLA, Fla., Feb. 12, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Plaintiff Carolyn Gray sued R.J. Reynolds and a jury has now determined that the company must pay $7 million in compensatory damages and $2.2 million in punitive damages related to the death of her husband, Charles Gray.

According to Matt Schultz of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas Mitchell Echsner & Proctor, P.A., Charles Gray began smoking at the age of 11 or 12 in the late 1940s, and was addicted to Camel cigarettes by age 15. Mr. Gray died from lung cancer at the age of 59 in 1994, after having switched to Winston cigarettes for the last 40 years of his life. The tobacco company R.J. Reynolds manufactures both the Camel and Winston brands.

After an extended trial in which Schultz and Pensacola attorney Robert Loehr represented the plaintiff, the jury ruled that the company was 60 percent at fault for Mr. Gray's death, while he was himself 40 percent at fault. The jury further found that Mr. Gray relied on R.J. Reynolds' fraudulent representations that concealed the full extent of the dangers of smoking and that the company's conspiracy to commit fraud was a legal cause of his death. The plaintiff, according to Schultz, admitted some fault on the part of Mr. Gray from the very beginning of the case. While such findings often reduce jury awards in Florida, the jury findings of intentional wrongdoing would dictate that the award should not be reduced, a point that R.J. Reynolds is expected to contest.

The result in the Gray case is the second jury verdict for Schultz and Loehr against a tobacco company in less than a year, and further trials are planned for later in 2010. Last June, R.J. Reynolds was ordered to pay $30 million to Hilda Martin, a Florida widow whose husband died of lung cancer in 1995. "We are prepared to try every case, one at a time, and we fully expect the jury findings to be consistent with the law and the evidence presented in each case," Loehr said.

The Florida law firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A is representing a number of tobacco plaintiffs following the 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision in the Engle v. R.J. Reynolds, a ruling that overturned a $145 billion verdict in a large class action accusing the tobacco companies of conspiring to cover up the dangers of smoking. The Engle Court also declined to revive the class action status of that lawsuit, but did allow individual lawsuits to go forward.

[Press Release: Gray v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. # 2007 CA 002773, in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial Circuit in Escambia County, Fla.]

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CONTACT: Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell Media Contact: Todd Blanchard 850-435-7000

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