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South Florida Widower Awarded More Than $157 Million in Nation's First Same-Sex Wrongful Death Case Against Big Tobacco

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A jury awarded a South Florida man $157 million Friday in a wrongful death case against two of the nation's largest tobacco companies.

This case started in 2007 when Edward Caprio sued R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, a year after the Florida Supreme Court reinstated a class action suit of which he was a member.

When Caprio died from respiratory disease in January 2018 following decades of smoking, his husband Bryan Rintoul, pursued damages as personal representative of Caprio's estate and as a survivor making a wrongful death claim.

The suit claimed tobacco manufacturers conspired to hide the dangers of smoking cigarettes while furthering an addiction that eventually caused Caprio's death.

Read the verdict

Friday's decision, which imposes $74.1 million each against R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, is added to a $9.2 million compensatory award handed down last week for the respiratory disease-related death of Edward Caprio.

This is the first same‑sex wrongful death case against big tobacco to go to trial in the entire country.

The lawsuit is among thousands of claims that stem from Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., a 1994 Florida state court class-action case against the nation's tobacco companies. The state's Supreme Court ultimately decertified the class, but ruled that so-called Engle progeny cases may be tried individually.

This verdict is the largest Engle progeny award since July 2014, when jurors in Pensacola handed down a $23.6 billion verdict against R.J. Reynolds for Michael Johnson's 1996 cancer death. That award was ultimately thrown out on appeal. Jurors cleared RJR in a retrial over Johnson's death earlier this year.


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