MIAMI, Fla. -

The nation's No. 2 cigarette maker is vowing to fight a jury verdict of $23.6 billion in Florida in punitive damages in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. executive J. Jeffery Raborn has called the damages awarded by a Pensacola jury "grossly excessive, and impermissible under state and constitutional law."

One of the attorneys for the widow, Cynthia Robinson, says the verdict Friday night sends a powerful message to tobacco companies.

The case is one of thousands filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court in 2006 threw out a $145 billion class action verdict.

Robinson individually sued Reynolds in 2008 on behalf of her late husband, Michael Johnson Sr., who died in 1996.