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A court in the USA has ordered the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds to pay a woman $23.6 billion in damages. Cynthia Robinson filed a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds in 2008 and fought for six years for compensation. Her husband Michael died of lung cancer in 1996 after two decades of smoking. He started smoking when he was 13 and died when he was 36. Mrs Robinson argued that the company was negligent in not informing her husband that nicotine is addictive and that smoking can lead to lung cancer. She said tobacco companies knew in the 1950s that smoking was potentially lethal and should have been more active in telling people. Johnson's lawyer said: "He couldn't quit. He was smoking the day he died."

A lawyer for R.J. Reynolds, America's second-largest tobacco company, said the compensation was disproportionate. He said: "The damages awarded in this case are grossly excessive and impermissible under state and constitutional law." He added: "This verdict goes far beyond the realm of reasonableness and fairness and is completely inconsistent with the evidence presented." Mrs Robinson's lawyer Chris Chestnut said jurors looked at R.J. Reynolds' aggressive marketing, particularly campaigns aimed at young people. He said: "[R.J. Reynolds] lied to Congress, they lied to the public, they lied to smokers and tried to blame the smoker." He added that the jury's decision was "courageous".

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