FORT LAUDERDALE, FL--(Marketwired - August 02, 2013) - A South Florida jury has found a tobacco company guilty of engaging in reprehensible and intentional reckless misconduct for a smoker's death and awarded $37.5 million to the woman's surviving family. Included in the award was $22.5 million in punitive damages in response to the industry's continued and deliberate efforts to addict innocent teens.
In its finding against R.J. Reynolds Company, the Broward County Circuit Court jury this week also awarded plaintiffs $15 million in compensatory damages for Laura Grossman's husband, Jan, and two children.
"The jury's message was loud and clear: Big Tobacco should be protecting teens, not killing them," said Scott Schlesinger, plaintiff's counsel from the Schlesinger Law Offices. "They should be curing cancer, not causing it. Instead, they continue to addict kids to nicotine, deliver these death sentences, and then try to blame smokers who they addicted. Their conduct is reprehensible."
The case was heart-wrenching. Laura Grossman was 15 when she began smoking in 1972. Attorneys for R.J. Reynolds tried to paint Ms. Grossman as a party to her own illness, given that cigarette packs at the time had begun carrying warning labels. But Ms. Grossman was squarely among the target audience -- a young teen whose developing brain was highly susceptible to nicotine's addictive properties, Schlesinger said. She was no match for Big Tobacco.
"The tobacco companies were banking on the warning labels being their defense," Schlesinger said. "Jurors simply rejected their premise."
At 36, married and the mother to a daughter, 11, and a son, 3, Ms. Grossman, a resident of Coral Springs, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her death two years later in 1995 followed what one pain management doctor testified was the most valiant struggle to live she'd ever witnessed. For years after her death, children Jessica and Steven struggled to understand what happened.
"Even her medical records cited her fight to live," added Jonathan Gdanski, who along with Schlesinger represented the plaintiffs with attorneys Steven J. Hammer and Brittany Chambers, all of the Schlesinger Law Offices. "We saw the horrors caused by cigarettes -- to the victim, and the family she left behind. This was cathartic to the family. But Ms. Grossman is still gone forever."
The Grossman case follows two recent, multi-million dollar verdicts for the firm. The firm also was part of the legal "dream team" that negotiated the landmark $11.3 billion settlement in 1997 for the state of Florida against five tobacco companies. Like the other cases, Ms. Grossman was a member of the Engle class action. The 2006 Florida Supreme Court case found that all Florida citizens and residents and their survivors who have suffered from disease or medical conditions caused by their addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine could bring action. Some 8,000 plaintiffs have sought to protect their rights. In Ms. Grossman's case, the jury agreed she was addicted to the nicotine found in cigarettes.
"These cases prove that jurors are seeing through the decades of deceit and lies the tobacco companies have believed they could cast like a spell over jurors," Schlesinger said. "Three significant wins in three months proves that the truth is winning out."
As Schlesinger concluded in his closing argument, where he implored jurors to award punitive damages, "Over the years, over the course of many decades, there was an intentional act of conspiracy, an intentional act of fraud by the combined tobacco companies to embark upon a campaign that, rather than cure cancer, they would cause it," he said. "The basic tenet is, we should protect, not addict; we should guide our children, not mislead them. And, so, for an enterprise of death, which is what this industry is, to create a business model intentionally, knowledgeably, that trades the life of folks for money is… does not meet with the bounds of human decency."
ABOUT SCHLESINGER LAW OFFICES
Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Schlesinger Law Offices is a personal injury law firm focused on holding big corporations and major manufacturers accountable for the harm they cause and the damage suffered by the general public through acts of negligence and misconduct. The firm is currently working on cases involving Big Tobacco, Accutane medication, defective medical devices, and defective drug products. For more information log on to www.schlesingerlawoffices.com.