A federal appeals court in St. Louis upheld a jury award in excess of $9 million against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to a man whose wife died from lung cancer.
The court upheld an Arkansas jury's verdict that Pall Mall cigarettes were defectively designed and caused the fatal lung cancer of Mary Jane Boerner, who smoked the cigarettes for 36 years. The court also cut the punitive damage award to $5 million from $15 million.
"The evidence indicates that American Tobacco manufactured, marketed, and sold Pall Mall cigarettes containing excessively high levels of carcinogenic tar and lacking effective filter technology," the court said, referring to Pall Mall's manufacturer, whose assets and liabilities are now owned by R.J. Reynolds, a unit of Reynolds American Inc.
If it's not overturned, the decision may make it easier for cigarette makers to be sued by smokers who claim their cigarettes were more dangerous than other brands.
R.J. Reynolds is reviewing the ruling and plans to pursue "all of our available appellate options," according to an R.J. Reynolds spokesman.
The company may ask for a review of the decision by the entire appeals court or by the U.S. Supreme Court.