Widower awarded over $157 million in tobacco case

Many people in Texas have lost loved ones due to cigarette smoking and its serious health effects. In a Florida case, a gay man was awarded over $157 million for a wrongful death case filed after his husband died from lung cancer linked to cigarette smoking. His lawyer said it was the first such case on record involving a same-sex couple. The man’s husband was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 1996. He lived with the disorder for 22 years until he died from the effects of the disease in 2018.

The widower filed a wrongful death lawsuit against major tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, seeking damages. His husband had smoked cigarettes made by both companies since he was 15 years old. The widower claimed that these companies had specifically manipulated nicotine levels in their products in order to make them more addictive. He also said that in the late 1950s, when his husband first began to smoke, the companies deliberately targeted their marketing to adolescents and youth under 18.

The fact that the couple were in a same-sex marriage is relevant to the outcome because Florida law mandates that only a spouse can file a wrongful death claim if the couple were already married before the relevant illness or injury that led to death. The couple married in 2015, only days after same-sex marriage was legalized nationally by the Supreme Court. The judge and jury in the case agreed that the men, who had a 35-year relationship, would have married earlier but for the legal bar preventing them.

The loss of a loved one is always tragic, but that tragedy can be compounded if it was caused by someone else’s negligence or actions. A personal injury attorney may help grieving individuals file a wrongful death claim against those responsible.

Source: NBCNews.com, “Florida jury awards gay man $157 million from tobacco companies in death of spouse,” Janelle Griffith, Nov. 20, 2019