An Irish anti-smoking campaigner has welcomed a US jury’s decision to order R.J. Reynolds Tobacco to pay $23.6 billion in punitive damages and are urging the government to mount its own court action, according to an Irish Daily Mail story.
The damages award is the subject of an appeal.
Professor Luke Clancy, of Dublin’s Tobacco Free Research Institute, was reported to have welcomed the jury’s ruling and said it should give the Irish government the confidence to take its own class or group action in the courts against tobacco companies.
“I have always advised that the government should take this on,” said Clancy, who is a respiratory consultant physician. “I think that would benefit the state and help to pay the medical costs being inflicted on the state.”
A jury in the Escambia Court, Florida, imposed the punitive damages award the day after it had determined that the widow of Michael Johnson Sr, Cynthia Robinson, should receive $17 million in compensatory damages in the ‘Engle’ case, even though the jury determined Johnson was 30 per cent responsible for his own illness.
Engle cases have been heard since a Florida Supreme Court decision in 2006 decertified a $145 billion class-action lawsuit filed by Howard Engle but allowed former class members to file individual lawsuits stating that cigarettes caused their respective illnesses.
Meanwhile, Ireland could have to pay hundreds of millions in compensation to tobacco manufacturers if standardized tobacco packaging is introduced there, according to a story in the Irish Times quoting Exane BNP Paribas.
The international research and equities firm, which is backed by France’s biggest bank BNP Paribas, said it believed the tobacco industry had a robust case against standardized packaging – a case that would allow it to claim billions in compensation in Europe.
In a note to investors in tobacco stocks, Exane BNP Paribas said it had taken legal advice on the potential arguments that could be used to seek compensation if standardized packaging could not be blocked altogether by big tobacco companies.
‘The strongest of the legal arguments, in our view, surrounds deprivation of
intellectual property,” it said.