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Palm Beach Tobacco Litigation: Smokers’s Widow Gets $2.2M Award and $270K in Punitive Damages from Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds

14 years after the death of her husband from lung cancer, Liz Piendle has been awarded $2.2 million for the Palm Beach wrongful death of her husband and $270,000 in punitive damages against tobacco giants Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. Piendle’s 55-year-old husband Charles was a smoker who lit up two packs a day for 30 decades. The 60-year-old Royal Palm Beach resident has expressed satisfaction with the Palm Beach tobacco litigation verdict. Although jurors didn’t that find either RJ Reynolds or Philip Morris were negligent, they did hold them 55% liable for Charles’s death. They found the longtime smoker to be 45% at fault, which is why Piendle will get $2.2 million out of the $4 million they said she should receive for her pain and suffering. Piendle’s case is the first of about 300 Palm Beach County tobacco injury lawsuits to go to trial. The cases stem from a Miami class-action complaint from that in 1999 led to a jury awarding smokers and surviving family members $145 billion in damages for tobacco companies' negligence in trying to hide that smoking was dangerous. The Florida Supreme Court tossed out the award in 2006 and ruled that smokers must file separate Florida tobacco lawsuits each explaining how tobacco companies and their cigarettes impacted them. Piendle claimed that her husband got addicted to smoking when he was a teenager and was only able to stop seven years before he died. While the defendants argued that Charles could have quit smoking, Piendle’s tobacco litigation attorneys claimed that the “misinformation campaign” that lasted for decades wasn’t Charles’ fault. Out of 22 Florida tobacco lawsuits decided by juries, 17 cases have gone in the plaintiffs’ favor. Tobacco companies have only won 3 cases. Some 8,000 tobacco litigation cases have been filed in Florida. Jury orders two tobacco giants to pay $270,000 in punitive damages to widow of smoker, Sun-Sentinel, August 20, 2010 Widow to get tobacco award, Herald Tribune, August 20, 2010 Related Web Resources: Philip Morris RJ Reynolds Bulletin: Cigarettes Remain Dangerous to Your Health, Politics Daily, June 18, 2010 Engle v. Liggett Group, Inc., Florida Supreme Court Decision (PDF)

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