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A Florida Court has ordered that RJ Reynolds pay $23.6 billion (£13.8 billion) in punitive damages to the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer. Cynthia Robinson, whose husband Michael Johnson Sr. died in 1996, aged 36, began legal proceedings against the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the US’ second largest cigarette producer, back in 2008. Robinson’s lawyer argued “RJ Reynolds took a calculated risk by manufacturing cigarettes and selling them to consumers without properly informing them of the hazards’’. Although cases like this have been heard before, none with such vast amounts of money have been awarded and the damages are the second largest amount granted in an individual case stemming from a class action lawsuit in the state. Although the Company are planning on appealing the decision (with most commentators believing the damages are unlikely to stand), this will prove to be a fascinating case for Lawyers both sides of the pond. Although the American legal system differs from the British, Law applicants should not be left ashtray – a useful comparison can be made over the compensation culture that has now begun to drag its way into the British system. One reason this case could prove so monumental rests on the centrality of legal precedent in common law – should the judgement stand, the floodgates could open on countless more compensatory claims. 

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