A Brooklyn, N.Y., jury ordered Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and two industry groups to pay $20 million in punitive damages to the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer. Brown & Williamson said it would appeal the verdict, the tobacco industry’s first loss in New York in a smoking and health case.
The state court jury had previously awarded compensatory damages of $350,000 to Gladys Frankson, whose husband, Harry Frankson, died at 58. A finding that he was 50% responsible probably will halve the award.
Punitive damages are likely to be cut, too, in line with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting punitive damages to nine times the amount of compensatory damages. Of the punitive awards, $8 million was assigned to Brown & Williamson and $6 million each to the Tobacco Institute and Council for Tobacco Research. Both groups are defunct, and it’s unclear if they can be made to pay damages.