The maker of Camel cigarettes has paid out more than $250,000 in damages to an elderly man who developed cancer from smoking.
Leroy Kirkland had sought damages of more than $10billion from R.J. Reynolds, which is the largest award ever sought by an individual, but he settled for $260,000.
The 71-year-old, of Tampa, argued in a Florida court that smoking cigarettes had caused him cancer and emphysema.
The jury ordered the company to pay Mr Kirkland $10,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.
R.J. Reynolds is the second-largest tobacco company in America, with a market share of 28 per cent.
It is a unit of Reynolds American Incorporated, of Winston-Salem in North Carolina, and produces a number of high-profile cigarette brands such as Camel and Pall Mall
Kirkland’s original request of more than $10billion was more than half the market capitalisation of Reynolds American.
The jury’s verdict was the latest among thousands of lawsuits against cigarette firms, named as ‘Engel progeny’ cases after a landmark lawsuit filed almost 20 years ago.
‘We came up a little short, but we won,’ said Willie Gray, for Kirkland, after jurors found him 90 per cent responsible for his illnesses.
‘It could have been and should have been more.’
R.J. Reynolds has not yet commented but it is expected to appeal the verdict.
The ‘Engle progeny’ cases originate from a 1994 landmark lawsuit between lead plaintiff Howard Engle and the tobacco industry.
Six years later a jury ordered tobacco companies to pay a record $145billion in punitive damages to sick smokers, after finding that cigarettes cause lung cancer and other illnesses.
But this was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006, which nullified the original cases of about 700,000 Florida smokers.
But by ruling individual cases could still proceed, thousands of individual cases could move forward through the courts.
Smokers have so far won 22 of 33 verdicts in ‘Engle progeny’ cases.