In the largest verdict in Connecticut of the year, Judge Stefan Underhill of the Federal District Court in Bridgeport has added more than $44 million in punitive damages and interest against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the case of Barbara Izzarelli, formerly of Norwich.Underhill awarded Izzarelli $8 million in punitive damages and $36.4 million in offer of judgment interest. With the original compensatory damages award of $7.98 million, the total judgment is $52.4 million.
The case was the first smoker’s case to come to trial in Connecticut and was the first jury verdict ever returned against a tobacco company in New England history. Since the verdict in Izzarelli’s case, two juries in Massachusetts have also returned multimillion-dollar verdicts against cigarette companies.
In support of the award of $8 million in punitive damages, Underhill detailed the evidence Izzarelli presented at trial of R.J. Reynolds’ decades of product marketing misconduct – which the judge termed “reprehensible” – in designing cigarettes to be addictive while publicly denying it.
Izzarelli, who now lives in Florida, began smoking at age 12. She underwent a total laryngectomy, followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She can no longer breathe through her mouth or nose and uses a tube in her throat.
“Barbara Izzarelli has fought long and hard against R.J. Reynolds, which targeted her with a product that was specifically designed to addict her,” said David S. Golub of Stamford’s Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, who represented Izzarelli. “This ruling will not bring back her health, but it is an important step in holding R.J. Reynolds accountable for the harm it intentionally causes smokers like Ms. Izzarelli.”
While Reynolds is expected to appeal, Golub said he hopes the case will be wrapped up by 2019.