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Conn. Smoker Gets $15.7M More From RJ Reynolds

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By James Norwood on March 07, 2011 5:51 AM

R.J. Reynolds was ordered to pay an additional $15.7 million in interest to Barbara Izzarelli, a Norwich resident who developed larynx cancer. She was previously awarded $13.9 million by a jury, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Barbara Izzarelli first filed suit in 1999 and offered to settle for $400,000. R.J. Reynolds declined the offer. Now they have to foot the bill for the misstep.

When R.J. Reynolds complained the interest was excessive, Judge Stefan Underhill rejected their claim. He said interest is mandatory under the law and designed to encourage defendants to accept reasonable settlement offers.

Under the "Offer of Judgment" rule, when a plaintiff makes a settlement offer and the defendants reject it, the plaintiff is entitled to penalties dating back to when the offer is made.

In Connecticut, the jury held that Salem cigarettes were unreasonably dangerous and defectively designed. Moreover, that R.J. Reynolds acted with reckless disregard for the safety of consumers, Izzarelli's attorney said.

The jury found Barbara Izzarelli's compensatory damages totaled $13.9 million and ruled that both R.J. Reynolds and Izzarelli bore responsibility for her smoking injuries. So, the jury allocated 58% responsibility to Reynolds and 42% to Izzarelli, reducing her award to about $8 million plus another $4 million in punitive damages.

Whenever a plaintiff is deemed to have been negligent, a jury may reduce their award by the degree of their contribution. Punitive damages are designed to discourage the defendant and others of similar behavior. They are usually considered when the plaintiff shows that the defendant intended to cause them harm.

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