The state’s highest court agreed to hear an appeal of a punitive damages award against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the case of a man who died from smoking, according to filings.
The Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction last Thursday, court dockets show.
At trial, a jury found smoker James E. Schoeff 25 percent at fault in his death. He had “died from lung cancer ‘caused by his addiction to cigarettes,’ ” according to court documents.
It awarded his wife Joan Schoeff $10.5 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages, even after her lawyer asked jurors not to go above $25 million.
The trial judge later reduced the compensatory damages award to almost $7.9 million but let stand the punitive damages amount. R.J. Reynolds appealed, calling the punitive damages “unconstitutionally excessive.”
The 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach agreed with RJR that the award “falls on the excessive side of the spectrum,” according to its opinion. One judge in the three-judge panel dissented.
Schoeff then appealed to the Supreme Court, noting the decision conflicted with other appellate courts in Florida.
The high court did not immediately set a timetable.