Fla. Supreme Court faces decision over tobacco

Case involves punitive damages involving sick smokers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An appellate court wants the Florida Supreme Court to resolve a question on punitive damages in cases involving sick smokers.

A 1st District Court of Appeal panel on Wednesday split 2-1 in affirming a trial judge's refusal to allow punitive damages in an Alachua County case because fraud was not proven.

A jury ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to pay Lucille Soffer $2 million in compensatory damages for the death of her husband, Maurice Soffer, from lung cancer.

It's one of some 8,000 cases under the umbrella of a 2006 Supreme Court decision.

That ruling allows punitive damages for fraud but is silent on negligence and strict liability.

The justices are being asked if Mrs. Soffer and other plaintiffs also can obtain punitive damages under those two legal theories.

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